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DayoftheDead:JoseGuadalupePosada,Fatherof

LaCatrina
The Republic
4:17 p.m. MST September 25, 2014

(Photo:PhoenixArtMuseum)

Sincehisdeathacenturyago,JosGuadalupePosada'sworkhassteadilygained
popularitywithartloversandDiadelosMuertoscelebratorsalike.Heisespecially
knownforhis
calaveras
imagesofwhimsicalskeletons.

Posada,bornin1852intheMexicanstateofAquascalientes,beganhiscareerasa
teacherof
lithography
.In1887,hemovedtoMexicoCitywhereheworkedasan
illustratorforhire.

Hisworkreflectedthetimesinwhichhelived.Posada'sillustrationsmadethestories,
newsarticles,broadsides,advertisementsandthemanyotheritemshiswork
accompaniedeasytograspforapovertystrickenpopulationthatoverwhelminglywas
illiterate.

Trulydefiningthephrase"apicturespeaksathousandwords,"hecapturedtheessence
ofanemotion,puttingitinaformthatmadeitcometolifeforthousandsofpeople.

Posadacreatedhundredsofimagestoaccompanythelyricsofcorridos(Mexican
ballads).Thecorridosweremostlytopical,relayingthedeathofabullfighter,the
beginningsandendingoftheMexicanrevolution,andwhilethelyricsfilledinthestories,
itwasthemusicandartist'simagesthatroundedoutthefeelingbehindthesongs.

EventuallysettlingdownasthechiefillustratorforAntonioVanegasArroyoinMexico
City,Posadacreatednearly20,000imagesduringhiscareer.

DuringPosada'stimeworkingforthepublisher,dictatorPorfirioDiaz'sruleoverMexico
Citywasnotonethatwascelebratedbyitscitizens.Posada'sillustrationsclearlyshowed
thegeneralfeelingofdisdainforthecorruptgovernment,helpingtomoldnegativepublic
opinionofDiazandthecompanyhekept.

Posadawasregardedasthevoiceofthecommonmanandhelpedtosolidifyartasa
meanstocommunicatethepublic'sunhappinessandskepticismofthegovernment.He
usedthepracticeofcaricaturizingfiguresasskeletonstoserveasasortofsatirical
obituary.Whilehelampoonedpeopleofallclasses,itwashisrenderingofthe
aristocrats,whomDiazheldinsuchhighregard,thatremainsthemostpopularof
Posada'svastcatalogwork.

"
LaCatrina
"isonesuchimage.Althoughtheillustrationofthehighsocietywomanisone
ofPosada'smosthighlyregardedpieces,it'salsoarguablythemostrecognizableimage
oftheDiadelosMuertoscelebrations.

Infact,manyofPosada'scalaverascanbeseenatDiadelosMuertosfestivalstoday.
Thecaretas(masks)wornattheendofthecelebrationstoscarethedeadawayfrom
theiraltarsareoftentimeseitherreproductionsoforinfluencedbyPosada'sillustrations.

ThestyleandsentimentinPosada'sworkfueledanartisticmovementintheyears
followinghisdeathin1913.MuralistsDiegoRiveraandJosClementeOrozco,who
becameheavyweightsintheMexicanartcommunity,bothnamedPosadaasamajor
influenceontheirwork.

Inlife,Posadareceivedwhatamountedtojustafewcentsforeachofhisdrawings.He
livedahumblelifeand,uponhisdeath,wasburiedinacommongrave.However,there
wasnothingordinaryabouthim.

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