In 1921 the young French artist Jean Charlot, then working as a muralist in Mexico City, encountered the broadsides of José Guadalupe Posada. Posada had been dead since 1913, and though his prints and broadsides were familiar to many Mexicans, Posada as a person was largely forgotten. Charlot's pioneering article on Posada published in 1925 in Revista de Revistas brought Posada to the attention of the art world. Charlot's enthusiasm for Posada remained with him during the course of a long and productive life, and resulted in the assembly of an extensive personal collection of Posada's art.
The Jean Charlot Collection over 650 prints by Posada that Charlot collected, many of them broadsides or pamphlets. They are grouped according to broad subjects and each is assigned an identification number.
Posada was born in 1852 in Aguascalientes, Mexico and had some art education, being registered as a painter when he was 15. He became an apprentice in a printshop where he learned several methods of printmaking and used his skills to produce political cartoons. At the age of 20, he moved to León and worked at another printshop, soon owning it. For the following 16 years Posada produced lithographs and engravings of advertising art, religious images, posters, flyers and brochures with increasing skill. In 1884 he taught lithography for a year at a secondary school.
A flood in 1888 caused heavy damage to Posada’s printshop. That and wider opportunities in Mexico City may have induced him to relocate there. He soon began working for the publishing house of Antonio Vanegas Arroyo (1852-1917) who hired Posada as the chief illustrator of a large variety of publications. Posada’s images of politicians, disasters, folk heroes and sensational crimes often required no text to be understood.
Posada is perhaps best known for images of calaveras, skeletons. These were very popular throughout the country and their style is still seen as the indelible standard most associated with Mexico’s Day of the Dead festivities.
In 1900 Maucci Brothers, a Spanish publisher, commissioned Posada to illustrate a series of pamphlets for children on the history of Mexico – Biblioteca del Niño Mexicano. Each pamphlet measures 4 ¾ x 3 ¼ in. and is approximately 16 pages. The cover illustrations are probably the only mechanically produced chromolithographs that Posada ever created. The collection has all 110 of them, available online at https://scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu/handle/10125/34302
It is estimated that Posada created about 20,000 print images in his lifetime for broadsheets, pamphlets, book and magazine illustrations and more. As well known as his images were, Posada himself was not famous in this lifetime and he died with little notice at 60 in 1913.
Prepared by Sylvia Orozco
1852 - Born on the night of February 2 at 10:00 p.m. in the corner house marked No. 47 and 49 in Los Angeles Barrio of San Marcos in Aguascalientes, to German Posada, a baker and Petra Aguilar, a homemaker. Today the name of the street where Posada was born is named after him.
During his childhood he works along with his brothers Ciriaco and Cirilo with uncle Manual Posada, who owned a pottery workshop. Posada has six brothers and two sisters.
He completes elementary school under the instruction of his older brother Cirilo, who works as a tutor.
1864 - At the age of twelve, he creates drawings while helping his brother Cirilo, by taking care of his youngest pupils.
1867 - At age fifteen, Posada shows interest and talent in art. The Justice of the Peace in the barrio, Don Pablo Guadalajara issues a type of neighborhood census that registers Posada with the trade of a painter.
He attends for a short time the Academia Municipal de Dibujo de Aguascalientes, directed by Antonio Varela. Posada learns basic concepts imitating the European classics.
1868 - Apprentices to and later works for the master printer Jose Trinidad Pedroza in his lithographic printing shop. Trinidad Pedrozo was a wood engraver and lithographer who had studied at the Academy of Drawing, Sculpture, and Architecture in Aguascalientes. This print shop was more than just a work place. Jose Maria Chavez, a progressive thinker who had fought against French intervention in Mexico, originally had established the shop. The shop, "El Esfuerzo" as it was called, was a center where political and cultural problems were discussed. El Esfuerzo had an engraving, lithography, and photography workshop, along with bookbinding, foundry, blacksmithing, and coachwork facilities. Here Posada learns his trade through his daily work in this environment as well as begins his political formation.
1871 - Makes his first illustrations using lithography for El Jicote, a satirical newspaper in Aguascalientes in the Trinidad Pedroza Shop. Eleven numbers are produced and are illustrated by Posada. Trinidad Pedroza is one of the principal participants of the open campaign against the ex-governor Jesus Gomez Portugal. Posada illustrates issue number three, with political caricatures of the ex-governor. This issue creates a political scandal during the elections on August 20. Posada's work with El Jicote exposes Posada to the world of penny press newspapers.
The active participation of El Jicote in local politics forces Trinidad Pedrozo to leave the city. Posada follows Pedrozo to the city of Leon de las Aldamas, in the state of Guanajuato.
Posada's father dies.
1872 - On May 15, Pedroza sets up a lithograph and print shop on Calle de Indio 14. Here Posada begins to engrave on wood and begins his career as a book illustrator.
1873 - Pedroza returns to Aguascalientes and Posada is left in charge of the shop.
1875 - On September 20, marries Maria de Jesus Vela, a young year native of Leon. They have no children. His only son in born out of wedlock during a relationship with another woman, or possibly, adopted. The son inherits his father's artistic talent.
Produces several lithographs for cigar book covers as commissions for Leon's cigar factories, as well as religious stamps.
1876 - Pedroza and Posada end their partnership and Posada becomes owner of the modest shop consisting of a hand press fabricated by the New York firm, R. Hoe, two ink rollers, and half a dozen lithograph stones.
1876-1882 - Produces work in Leon, many of which lack his signature. His signed work reappears in 1882 on the logo for La Gacetilla, a daily newspaper. Posada illustrates twelve of La Gacetilla's ninety-six issues, as well as designing the logo for the paper. During this time he also produces lithographs for the religious and informational periodicals El Pueblo Catolico and La Educacion. He also creates a city plan of Leon, matchbox covers, cityscapes, portraits, calling cards, and personal announcements.
1880 - Antonio Vanegas Arroyo opens his print shop in Mexico City.
1882 - Manuel Manilla, engraver who influences Posada's style, starts working with Vanegas Arroyo.
1883-1884 - Receives a commission for three prints for a four-volume historical study of Guanajuanto by the Imprenta del Colegio de Artes y Oficios. All prints are signed "Posada and Son."
1884 - On January 15, he is appointed as technical instructor of printmaking and bookbinding at the Escuela de Instruccion Secundaria de Leon, a state school.
Lives and has his shop on Calle Honda No. 126 where he produces vignettes, diplomas, and religious images, the majority of which no longer exist.
1888 - On January 12, 1888, Posada resigns from the school. On June 17, according to some accounts, he loses some of his family members and his home and shop in the great flood of Leon. He moves to Mexico City with his son and the lithography press. He had previously created illustrations for newspapers in Mexico City and is able to find work. Posada's first regular employer is La Patria Illustrada edited by Ireneo Paz, a lawyer and participant in the Reformist Movement.
1889 - Commercial pressures cause Posada to start working in media other than lithography. Begins doing type-metal engravings. He makes his rounds to the print shops asking if any engravings are needed. He sets up his first shop on Callejon de Santa Teresa, today named Lic. Verdad. Later he moves to No. 5, Santa Inez, today Moneda no. 20. Posada works out of his shop for various publishers.
1890 - Joins the publishing house of Don Antonio Vanegas Arroyo with whom he works until his death. 1890 is the earliest date of those prints by Posada published by Vanegas Arroya in La Gaceta Callejera.
1892 - On May 31, in El Fandango, publishes an ad under the title: Announcement of Jose Guadalupe Posada. "He has the honor of offering to the public his services as an engraver in metal [and] wood for every type of illustration for books and periodicals. Equally, he offers his services as lithographer."
1893 - As a ten-year-old youth, Jose Clemente Orozco wanders in Posada's workshop. In his autobiography, Orozco writes, "This was my awakening to the existence of the art of painting. I became one of the most faithful customers in Vanegas Arroyo's retail shop . . . ."
1895 - Begins to use the technique of zinc etching in most of his prints.
1899-1901 - Produces chromolithographs for the chapbook covers of a collection of historical tales, Biblioteca del Nino Mexicano by Heriberto Frias published by Maucci Brothers in Spain.
1900 - Works with at least twenty-three other newspapers including La Patria, El Ahuizote, El Hijo de Ahuizote, Fray Gerundio, El Fandango, Gil Blas, as well as with the Vanegas Arroyo Publishing House.
1913 - On January 20 at nine in the morning, Posada dies of acute enteritis at nine in the morning at No. 6, La Paz Avenue (today Jesus Carranza) at the age of sixty-one. Three neighbors certify his death. He is buried in the Panteon de Dolores in a sixth class grave. The Vanegas Arroyo publishing house continues to reprint his blocks.
1917 - Antonio Vanegas Arroyo dies. Nicholas Rangel writes an Eulogy for Vanegas Arroyo and mentions Posada. Rangel praises Posada as "the unique engraver of his kind, for no other possessed as he did such perception in caricaturing the lower classes of Mexico City."
1920 - Posada's remains are moved to a common grave because no one kept up the payments. Later the grave is washed out by storm rains.
1921 - Dr. Atl publishes Las Artes Populares in which several of Posada's prints are reproduced, credited to an unknown artist.
1921-1922 - Jean Charlot comes upon Posada's prints and blocks in the Vanegas Publishing House.
1922 - Dr. Atl publishes second edition of Las Artes Populares and quotes Nicholas Rangel's eulogy of Antonio Vanegas Arroyo along with reproducing the uncredited Posada illustrations.
1924 - Destruction of the Vanegas Arroyo publishing house by orders of an offended politician causes the loss of most of the original plates and of all the files and records.
1924 - El Machete, no. 9, p. 2, August 3-9, 1924, the official publication of the Mexican nationalist art movement, publishes a Posada illustration with credit line, "By an anonymous artist."
1925 - Jean Charlot writes the first historical article on Posada, "Un Presursor del Movimiento de Arte Mexicano," in Revista de Revistas.
1929- Filmmaker S. M. Eisenstein sees Posada's work and later pays tribute to Posada in the Day of the Dead section of his film "Que Viva Mexico."
1929-1930 - Diego Rivera paints Posada in his mural on Mexican history in the National Palace, Mexico City.
1930 - Mexican Folkways, issued by Taller Graficos de la Nacion publishes Monografia: Las Obras de Jose Guadalupe Posada, Grabador Mexicano edited by Frances Toor, Pablo O'Higgins, and Blas Vanegas Arroyo with an introduction by Diego Rivera. This is the first book published on Posada. The monograph has 400 prints impressed from the original blocks.
1937 - El Taller de Grafico Popular (The Workshop of Popular Graphics), a printmaking collective taking much of its inspiration from Posada, is founded.
1940 - Andre Breton introduces Posada to Europe in the context of surrealism in his anthology of black humor.
1943 - First major exhibition of Posada's oeuvre "as a national homage" is held in Mexico. Organized by Fernando Gambio of the Direccion General de Educacion Estetica, Secretaria de Educacion Publica, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City.
1944 - The 1943 exhibition travels to Chicago under the auspices of the Art Institute of Chicago, as the first major exhibition devoted to Posada in the United States.
1947 - 100 Original Woodcuts by Posada is published by Arsacio Vanegas Arroyo in conjunction with the Taylor Museum, with an introduction by Jean Charlot. The prints in this edition are pulled from Posada's original press.
1948 - Diego Rivera portrays Posada in his mural "A Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park" at the Hotel Prado (now located at the Diego Rivera Museum in downtown Mexico).
1963 - A major exhibition is organized by the National Institute of Fine Arts in Mexico City in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the death of the artist.