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José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913)

Mexican Illustrator and lithographer

José Guadalupe Posada was an illustrator and lithographer. He was born in the state of Aguascalientes in 1852. Posada was a pioneer of Mexican graphics as we now know them and his art work inspired numerous artists and cartoonists. Posada was known for his illustrations of folkloric scenes, popular stamps, and engravings and representations portraying death and socio-political critiques. His work was inspired by Mexican folklore and social and political events. He is considered to be the creator of infinite symbolisms defining what is “Mexican”. 

In his youth, Jose Guadalupe had a natural talent for engravings. At the age of sixteen, His father allowed him to enroll in the shop of Trinidad Pedroso, a recognized master of which he learned the methods and secrets of lithographic arts. In these years of learning, Posada had an innate ease for caricatures, such that his mentor introduced him to newspaper writing and graphic print as an illustrator. He published his initial vignettes at the age of nineteen, in 1871.

Although he came from humble beginnings, his family frowned upon his activities, so he became a teacher of lithography in Leon, Guanajuato.  He taught there for five years, all the while continuing to dedicate his time to commercial lithography, posters, and stampings of religious images. Here, he survived the great flood.

In 1888, he moved to Mexico City, where he was quickly made offers in various editorials. At one such editorial, under Ireneo Paz, he completed engravings for various newspapers. His name received unexpected fame, and his work expanded quickly. This rapid expansion allowed him to financially allowed him to take on a series of graphics projects that culminated in the use of zinc, lead and steel in his engravings. By 1890, his illustrations were present  at a national and popular level, seen in legends, songlets, short stories, leaflets, etc.

Posada knew how to illustrate well in an exceptional manner the beliefs and ways of living of Mexicans. His ideas were clearly progressive. In general, he elaborated a chronicle of life in Mexico during his time, including the sufferings of poor people under the yoke of wealthy landowners.

His extensive graphic productions were of great imagination and creativity. His humor and profound capacity criticized the prejudices and miseries of the social and political realities of his times. His works encompassed multiple themes, natural disasters, crime, morality, supernatural, political events, religious miracles, revolutionaries, executions, and natural catastrophes.  

Image result for josé guadalupe posada catrina
La Catrina

Posada is famous for illustrations of calacas (skeletons) and Calaveras (skulls). Among these is La Catrina. He dedicated a lot of time in the creation of the image of La Catrina and illustrated famous verses with regard to death. These were published in leaflets and newspapers at that time and are now used in the celebrations of Day of the Dead.

Posada was a precursor to the nationalist movement of plastic arts in Mexico. Artists such as Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco  and David Siqueiros were influenced and recognized his work.  

Posada died in 1913 in Mexico City.


Ruiza, M., Fernández, T. y Tamaro, E. (2004). Biografia de José Guadalupe Posada. En Biografías y Vidas. La enciclopedia biográfica en línea. Barcelona (España). Recuperado de el 17 de octubre de 2020.

Author: AllGoodsOnline