Posada, José Guadalupe, 1852-1913

Alternative names
Birth 1852-02-02
Death 1913-01-20
Spanish; Castilian

Biographical notes:

Born in poverty in 1852, Jose Guadalupe Posada (b. February 31, 1853-d. January 20, 1913) became the "Printmaker to the Mexican People," an influence on future Mexican artists such as Orozco and Rivera, and is often compared to such icons as Goya and Daumier. Posada is labelled an artist, a folk illustrator and a political cartoonist; no matter how he is categorized, it is clear that, through his prolific career, "an inarticulate public found expression."

Posada left his small village of Aquascalientes, where he had attended a drawing academy, to become an apprentice lithographer in Mexico City. He had shown a talent for engraving, which he originally did on wood. In Mexico City, he opened a small shop where he did commercial illustrations. In 1887, he joined the Antonio Vanegas Arroyo Publishing House, doing illustrations for a wide variety of printed publications, many of which had editions in the thousands. Posada is credited with introducing the process of etching on zinc to Mexico, around 1895. The process offered Posada more freedom as a draftsman, and resulted in fast and prolific numbers of finished prints. The prints, which ranged from broadsides to chapbooks all had one thing in common - the emphasis was on the illustration created by Posada. Posada knew his intended audience well; most were poor, illiterate and enjoyed the sensational aspect of any story. Using well-known symbols, and with an uncanny journalistic sense, Posada was able to identify a hierarchy of interests for the common man: family, work, neighborhood, government, disasters, religion and the supernatural. His illustrations, which were always linked to a story, were graphic reports that read from left to right. Posada was a master of composition and chiaroscuro (dark/light) and his prints always convey a feeling of action and movement. He also expressed a love of character, which can be seen in his humorous and satirical Calaveras series. Many of his prints deal with basic issues confronting the common man, especially the theme of guilt and punishment. It is estimated that more than half of his work deals with sensational crimes, especially atrocities committed by women. His political drawings reveal a deep social consciousness; Posada was a moralist whose criticism was aimed at everyone, not just the obvious government officials. His personal and artistic integrity were well-known, even though he worked for much of his life in complete obscurity. He died in 1913 and was buried in a common grave.

Although he was considered a self-taught folk artist during his lifetime, Posada's importance was re-established by Mexico's political muralists Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco in the 1920's. His work has been the focus of many museum exhibitions in Mexico and the United States. The collection at Stanford University is the largest holding of Posada's work in the country.


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Ark ID:


  • Political satire
  • Occupations--Mexico
  • Death in art
  • Mexican wit and humor, Pictorial
  • Block printing--19th century
  • City and town life--Mexico
  • Art, Mexican
  • Political cartoons
  • Caricatures and cartoons
  • Corridos
  • 0$aArt, Modern--Mexico
  • Prints, Mexican
  • Art--Mexican--Reproductions


  • Printmaker
  • Satirists
  • Graphic artists
  • Illustrator
  • Artists


  • Mexico City, 09, MX
  • Aquacalientes, , MX
  • Mexico, 00, MX