The legend of Jose Clemente Orozco began in the city of Guzman in the state of Jalisco, Mexico, in the year 1883. As a young boy, Orozco met the famous José Guadalupé Posada, who inspired him to take interest in the art of painting. He took drawing classes and was a student of agriculture for three years and then returned to the Academia de San Carlos from 1906 to 1910. He worked on his craft by doing cartoons and illustrations for local newspapers before getting into watercolor and oil painting. His first big piece, “The Last Spanish Forces Evacuating Honorably the San Juan se Ulua Castle,” was done in 1915, and in 1916 he had his first individual art exhibition at the Biblios Library.
With the mural painting-scene in 1922, Orozco had walls reserved for himself in a large patio at the National Preparatory School. There, he created works that depicted both social and political strife in early 20th century Mexico. Many of his works delved in allegories dealing with religion, life, death, war and politics.
Orozco lived in the United States beginning in the late ’20s. From 1927 to ’34 he worked in New York on several pieces that showed the dehumanization and mechanical character of that metropolis and did a series of murals based on the Mexican Revolution during his stay in California.
From 1936 to 1939, he worked in Guadalajara on his most notable project. Considered by many as his finest work, the murals at Hospicio Cabañas chapel depicted a huge portrait of Hidalgo with torch in hand. “The Political Circus” (El Circo Politico) along with “The Negative Forces” (Las Fuerzas Negativas) is located in the staircase of the City Hall with 40 large frescos on the architectural sections of the Cabañas. A powerful piece, it is Orozco’s conceptual depiction of the histories of Mexico; the savage indigenous world, the iconic and religious of the Conquest, it’s violence, the defeated people and vision of machinism, and the social ebb and flow of a troubled city.
Orozco was a founding member of El Colegio Nacional. He presented a half-dozen exhibitions at El Colegio beginning in 1943. There are collections of his drawings and easel paintings in the Orozco Museum shop in Guadalajara and the Carrillo Museum in Mexico City. Among his many honors, he was granted the 1946 National Arts Award. Jose Clemente Orozco’s buried in the illustrious Men’s Rotunda in Mexico City.