José Clemente Orozco (1883 – 1949)


Born in Zapotlán el Grande (or Ciudad Guzmán), in the state of Jalisco, Mexico, on November 23. His parents were Ireneo Orozco Vázquez and María Rosa Juliana Flores Navarro. His grandfather, licentiate Pedro Orozco Anguiano, had been a council member of the town during the period of the Reform.


The family moves to the city of Guadalajara, Jalisco, where they stay for five years.


He attends his first school: the San Felipe Institute.


The Orozco Flores settle in Mexico City. José Clemente starts his education in the primary school attached to the Normal School. Located nearby was the printing business of Vanegas Arroyo, where the engraver José Guadalupe Posada created his famous engravings. His works were “the first conscious stimulus” for Orozco to register as an auditor for the evening classes of the National Academy of Fine Arts (San Carlos).


He starts his studies at the National Preparatory School; his subjects include algebra, French and drawing.


He obtains a scholarship from the Government of Jalisco to attend the National School for Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine of San Jacinto, where he studies for three years to become an agronomist.


On March 23, he is awarded the second prize for topographical drawing. He receives the prize from the President of the Republic, Porfirio Díaz, during a solemn ceremony in the House of Representatives.


Orozco completes his studies in agricultural sciences.


In order to advance his career he begins studying at the National Preparatory School, where he will stay for four years. His favorite subjects are mathematics and philosophy.


On February 5, he obtains the first prize in the third year’s course at the Preparatory School and President Porfirio Díaz awards him the accompanying diploma and gold medal.

His father, Ireneo Orozco, from whom he inherited his distinctly independent character, dies of typhoid on February 13 at the age of 59.


Orozco loses his left hand as the result of improper medical treatment after trying to produce firework. This event was decisive for the reorientation of his vocation from architecture to painting.


He starts working at the portrait magnification house of Gerardo Vizcaino. His work includes drawing recently deceased people at the request of their relatives.


Begins working as a draftsman in the office of Carlos Herrera, one of the principal architects of the capital. Later on he works as an architect assistant and draftsman in the graphic workshop of the newspaper El Imparcial and other publications of Mexican entrepreneur Reyes Spíndola.


Orozco studies painting at the National Academy of Fine Arts (1907-1914). He establishes the class of moving figures. In these years he becomes acquainted with Gerardo Murillo, who calls himself Dr. Atl. After his journey to Europe, Murillo talks to him about the work of the avant-garde and the fresco paintings he had the opportunity to admire in Italy. This gave Orozco some insight into the manifold possibilities of wall paintings, and he brings up this theme with Dr. Atl, who was interested in big projects. After the success of the Mexican Painting Exhibition of 1910, Orozco, Dr. Atl and other artists create the Artistic Circle, with the purpose of painting murals. The walls of the National Preparatory School were put at the disposal of this group. The art club was supported by Justo Sierra, the Secretary of Education.


For first time, he submits a number of studies (charcoal drawings that have now disappeared) for a collective exhibition entitled Mexican Painting, organized on the occasion of the Centenary of the Independence at the National Academy of Fine Arts

In November, Orozco and other students of the Academy scaffold the walls of the National Preparatory School with the help of Dr. Atl in order to paint them.

On November 20, the civil war breaks out and the mural project is postponed for a decade.

Orozco starts collaborating on various publications such as the newspaper El Hijo del Ahuizote.


He joins the strike committee of the National Academy of Fine Arts.


In order to work intdependently, Orozco establishes his studio on Illescas Street. During this period (1913-1915) he makes aquarelles and oil paintings that depict themes of the elegant life.


Together with Dr. Atl and the workers of the Casa del Obrero Mundial he edits the revolutionary newspaper La Vanguardia in Orizaba, as a member of the group of illustrators.


Orozco paints his first work of considerable size, entitled Las últimas fuerzas españolas evacuando el castillo de San Juan de Ulúa (The last Spanish troops evacuating the castle of San Juan de Ulúa), in the Museum of the Fortress of San Juan de Ulúa, Veracruz.


He presents his first individual exhibition, which is nowadays called Las casas del llanto (The Houses of the Crying), in the Biblos bookstore in Mexico City. This exhibition consists of aquarelles, drawings and social caricatures.

For the first time, he faces attacks from the newspapers, specifically from Rafael Pérez Taylor, who hides behind the pseudonym Juan Amberes. Orozco responds two days later in the newspaper El Nacional by means of an article that represents a declaration of his principles. In this text he expounds upon his contribution to national art. This bears evidence of his tremendous self-confidence.


His first visit to the United States. Orozco works in San Francisco, California, and later in New York. When he crosses the border, US customs destroy more than half of the works he is carrying with him, because the frontier police consider them “immoral pictures”.


By order of the Minister of Public Education, he illustrates the Libros de los clasicos (Books of the Classics), a cultural project of José Vasconcelos.

He starts painting his first mural on the big patio of the National Preparatory School. On the ground floor, he creates Maternidad (Motherhood), Trinidad revolucionaria (Revolutionary Trinity), La Huelga (The Strike), Trinchera (Trench) and Dialéctica de la revolución (Dialectics of the revolution); at the entrance of the principal staircase he paints Hombres que beben agua (Water drinking men) and Ingenieros (Engineers); on the vault over the first part of the stairway, one can find Cortés y Malintzin (Cortés and Malintzin) and on the panels along the stairway, Maguey (Agave), San Francisco e indio (San Francisco and Indian), Contendientes indígenas (Quarreling natives) and Cabeza de Alvarado (Alvarado’s Head)

In the same building, on the second floor, his paintings include: Justicia (Justice), Libertad (Liberty), Basurero (Garbage Man), Soberbia (Pride); and on the third, one can find among other paintings: Esposas y madres campesinos (Farmers’ wives and mothers), Retorno a la labor (Return to the labor), Paz (Peace) and Soldaderas (Camp followers).


He marries Margarita Valladeres del Valle Aldeco, in church in November and in a registry office in December.


His drawings appear in El Machete, a newspaper of the Union of Technical Workers, Painters and Sculptors.

In September his first son, Clemente Humberto, is born.


Orozco paints Omniciencia (Omniscience), the only mural in fresco he entitled on the spot, on the landing of the stairway of the Casa de los Azulejos (House of the Wall Tiles) by order of his admirer Don Francisco Iturbe, in Mexico City.

First international exhibition in the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery, in Paris, France.


Creates the untitled a mural in fresco in the Industrial School of Orizaba, Veracruz. It comes to be called Renovación (Renewal).

In June, his second son, Alfredo Leonardo, is born.

He begins painting the extraordinary series Horrores de la revolución (Horrors of the revolution), a collection of more than fifty paintings in gouache and ink.


In November, Lucrecia Eugenia, his third and last child, is born, and in December he travels for the second time to the United States and he settles in New York. This stay lasts seven years. He paints numerous high-quality oils.


In Paris, Orozco presents his second exhibition in Paris, in the Fermé la Nuit gallery. Also exhibits at Art Students League, New York.

Illustrates Mariano Azuela’s book Los de abajo in its English version (The Underdogs, a Story of the Mexican Revolution).

He begins creating lithographic works.


The Albertina Museum of Vienna buys several lithographs. Together with Alma Reed, he establishes the Delphic Studios gallery in New York, where he shows his work in an exhibition.

Completes the mural Prometeo (Prometheus) in the refectory of the Pomona College in Claremont, California.

His lithographs are also shown at the Museum Exposition Park, Los Angeles, California. By the end of the year, he starts working on the murals for the New School for Social Research in New York.


Orozco finishes his fresco murals at the New School, Mesa de la fraternidad universal (Table of the universal brotherhood) and Alegoría de las ciencias y las artes (Allegory of sciences and arts).

Exhibition in The Downtown Gallery, New York. Exhibition in Grace Horne’s Galleries, Boston, MA

Shows his lithographs and drawings in The Wisconsin Union, Wisconsin.

His colour drawings illustrate the book Las glorias de Venus (The glories of Venus), by Susan Smith.


Orozco begins working on the decoration of the Baker library (1932-1934) at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, with a series of monumental murals dealing with the general concept of the Épica de la civilización americana (Epic of the American civilization). In the summer he spends three months in Europe visiting London, Paris, Italy and Spain.

Back in the US he continues his work on the murals in Dartmouth. He paints Liberación (Liberation), Migraciones (Migrations), Sacrificio ceremonial (Ceremonial sacrifice), Teotihuacan, los dioses (Teotihuacan, the gods), Civilizaciones americanas autóctonas (Autochthonous American civilizations), Partida de Quetzalcóatl (Departure of Quetzalcóatl), Avanzada e imposición (Outpost and imposition), Cortés, conquista y evangelización (Cortés, conquest and evangelization), Colonización anglosajona (Anglo-Saxon colonization), Rebelde ante la codicia (Rebel against greed), Alma Mater, Monumento al soldado desconocido (Monument to the Unknown Soldier) and Cristo destruyendo su cruz (Christ destroying his cross).


Exhibition in the Civic Auditorium, La Porte, Indiana. Exhibition in The Arts Club of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.

Returning to Mexico, he paints the fresco Mundo contemporáneo (Contemporary world) at the Palace of Fine Arts.


His mother, María Rosa Juliana Flores Navarro, dies in October. She was an extraordinary woman from whom the painter inherited his strong, untamed and energetic character, and of whom he left an powerful portrait.


Orozco starts working on a series of murals in the city of Guadalajara, Jalisco (1936-1939): in the dome of the auditorium of the University of Guadalajara he paints Ideal del quehacer humano (Ideal of the human task) and on the walls of the rostrum its conceptual counterpart, Explotación ideológico-política (Ideological-political exploitation). In the turret of the principal stairway of the Government Building he creates Sublevación (Insurrection), also known as Hidalgo (Noble), and in the chapel of the Cabañas Hospice he paints Naturaleza del hombre (Human nature). In addition, he paints over 50 virtuoso panels in the entire building.


At the request of president Lázaro Cárdenas. Orozco begins work decorating the Public Library Gabino Ortiz in Jiquilpan, Michoacán with the murals Alegoría de la mexicanidad (Allegory of the Mexican nature), Las Acordadas (The careful women), as well as many others.

He pays a third visit to the United States to carry out the order of a transportable mural for the New York Museum of Modern Art entitled Dive Bomber and Tank, which was part of the exhibition 20 Centuries of Mexican Art at the same location.


In the grand hall of the building of the National Supreme Court of Justice in Mexico City, Orozco paints El artículo 127 constitucional (Article 127 of the constitution), Justicia (Justice) and many other panels.


Chapters of a memoir written by Orozco that will later constitute the book Autobiografía (Autobiography) are published one by one in the newspaper Excélsior.

He decorates the choir of the Jesús Nazareno chapel of the Jesús Hospital in Mexico City (1942-1944) with his murals. The artist did not give a name to this work, but in an interview, he referred to it as El apocalipsis de san Juan (Saint John’s apocalypse).


Orozco is appointed a member of the National College. He presents his first exhibition in the National College, entitled Exposición de obras recientes de José Clemente Orozco (Exhibition of recent works by José Clemente Orozco).

His fourth visit to the United States. He heads to California, where he is part of the jury, together with Walt Disney, of a poster contest within the framework of a campaign against poliomyelitis.

In June, the Society of Mexican Architects gives him the title of Honorary Member. Orozco provides assistance to ballet circles and during this period (1943-1945) he creates numerous works within the scope of this artistic genre, including backdrops, clothes designs, scenic designs, and plots.


A second exhibition at the National College: Exposición de obras recientes, pintura, dibujos y grabados en cobre de José Clemente Orozco (Exhibition of recent works by José Clemente Orozco: paintings, drawings and copper engravings).


Begins painting a number of panels in pyroxylin on masonite for the Turf Club of Mexico City. These panels will later be disassembled and preserved in private collections, one of them in the José Clemente Orozco Museum (and workshop) in Guadalajara.

The National College hosts a third exhibition of his works: Exposición de 70 dibujos recientes de José Clemente Orozco (Exhibition of 70 recent drawings by José Clemente Orozco) These 70 drawings include the series of drawings on La verdad (The truth) and some oils.

On a fifth visit to the United States for the fifth time, Orzoco stays in New York, where, influenced by the architecture and diverse cultures of the city, he paints numerous oils on canvas and works on paper.


A Fourth exhibition at the National College: Exposición de obras recientes de José Clemente Orozco (Exhibition of recent works by José Clemente Orozco). He is granted the newly established National Arts and Sciences Prize.


Orozco creates illustrations Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck’s novel The Pearl, for Viking Press, New York.

In tribute to his being awarded the National Arts and Sciences Prize, the National Exhibition organizes a retrospective at the Palace of Fine Arts; this exhibition comprised over 800 works by the artist.

A fifth exposition is held at the National College, entitled Los Teules (The Teules references a phrase used by the Aztecs, which was a derogatory name for the Spaniards) . The show exhibits over eighty unsurpassable works, including more than twenty piroxilins of considerable size, distemperas and drawings.

He creates a mural on a parabolic wall at the amphitheater of the National Normal School, called Alegoría Nacional (National Allegory, 1947-1948). This is the first work in which the artist uses ethyl silicate, a material resistant to the ravages of weather. One can say that this mural is the start of the monumental genre of “urban muralism”. He also paints two more fresco murals, one in the main entrance of the school entitled El pueblo se acerca a las puertas de la escuela (The people approach the gates of the school), and four panels in the main hall of the building entitled Derrota y muerte de la ignorancia (Defeat and death of ignorance).

Orozco paints a fresco mural, made on a steel fram that is disconnected from the actual wall, in National Museum of History in Chapultepec, Mexico City.

He designs and constructs his fourth house with adjoining atelier in Guadalajara.


Sixth exhibition of recent works at the National College entitled Estudios y bocetos para los murales 1947-1948 (Studies and sketches for the murals 1947-1948). He paints the mural entitled La gran legislación revolucionaria mexicana (The great Mexican revolutionary legislation, 1948-1948) on the vault of the building of the Legislative Authorities in Guadalajara, Jalisco. The painting Fantasía (Fantasy) belongs to this work of art.


Together with architect Mario Pani, Orozco makes drafts for a colossal sculpture. He also makes preliminary sketches and rough drafts for the decoration of the National Music Conservatory.

His last six drawings are female nudes for the open-air mural in the Miguel Alemán apartment building in Mexico City; he draws his last lines on September 6.

Orozco in his house in Ignacio Mariscal, colonia Tabacalera, Mexico City, on September 7 around 7 am.

Watch is kept with full honors in the Palace of Fine Arts. He is the first famous Mexican who is immediately buried in the Rotunda of the Famous Men without a waiting period. One of the personalities who attend his funeral is poet Pablo Neruda.

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1910  First exhibition by Mexican artists on the occasion of the Mexican Independence at the Academy of San Carlos.


1912  Third collective show with the group Acción y Arte


1916  First individual exhibition of Orozco’s works (mainly watercolors) at Biblos bookstore, Mexico City.


1922-1927  First Mural Cycle at the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria in Mexico City


1928  Group Exhibition at the Art Center in New York.

In October of the same year his drawing series Mexico in Revolution shown at Marie Sterner Galleries in New York.


1929  New York by José Clemente Orozco Exhibition at the Downtown Gallery, New York


1929  Paintings and Drawings by Jose Clemente Orozco, Art Students’ League, New York


1930  The Delphic Studios were inaugurated with an individual exhibit of Orozco’s work.



Exhibitions of Mexican art which included works by Orozco at the following institutions:

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh

The Cleveland Museum of Art

The Corcoran Gallery,Washington

Milwaukee Art Institute

The J.B. Speed Memorial Museum, Louisville.


1931  Group Exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum.

1931  Frescoes at the New School for Social Research, New York

1932-1934  Frescoes at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH

1934  Exhibition at the Civic Auditorium, La Porte, Indiana

1943  First exhibition, Obras recientes de Orozco (Recent works by Orozco) at the Colegio Nacional, of which Orozco was a founding member

1944  Second exhibition at the Colegio Nacional

1945  Third exhibition at the Colegio Nacional at which The Truth series is shown

1946  Orozco is awarded the national prize of Arts and Sciences from the President of Mexico

1947  Retrospective exhibition at the Palace of Fine Arts, Mexico City, and the Teules series of paintings shown at the Colegio Nacional

1950  Galería Libreria Juarez, Mexico, DF

1951  Orozco and the Revolution Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City

1951  Inauguration of Museo Casa-Taller Guadalajara, Jal. Mexico

1952  The Graphic Works of Orozco, Pan American Union NY, Washington DC,  and Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Mass.

1958  Portraits by Orozco, Sala Jose Clemente Orozco, Palace of Fine Arts, Mexico City

1961  Special exhibit at the VI Biennial, Sao Paolo, Brasil

1964  Orozco: muralista mexicano, homenaje, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Lima, Peru1968

Gallerie Due Mondi, Roma; Comune di Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy

1969 Drawings by Jose Clemente Orozco, Borgenicht  Gallery, New York

1977  Vidriera Monterrey, Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico


Tour of a selection of Orozco works shown at the following Museums:

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, La Habana, Cuba,

Musee D’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France;

Centro Cultural de la Villa de Madrid; Queens Museum,

Flushing, NY; National-Gelerie, Berlin, Germany;

Museum Moderner Kunst, Palais Liechtenstein, Viena

Austria; Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, England, Muzeum

Narodowe, Warsaw, Poland; Palazzo Pubblico, Milan, Italy.

1983  National Tribute to José Clemente Orozco on the Centennial of his birth, Palace of Fine Arts, Mexico City

1983  Sainete, Drama, Barbarie, Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico City

1985  Mexican Art, Museum of Modern Art, Saitama, Japan

1987  José Clemente Orozco, the Mexican painter and Muralist, Azad Bharan Art Gallery, New Delhi, India

1991  Art of the Forties, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

1994  Galeria Lopez Quiroga, Mexico City

1995  Jalisco Genio y Maestria, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Monterrey (Marco), Monterrery, Mexico

1997  Orozco: A Small Tribute, Mary Anne Martin Gallery, New York, NY

1998  José Clemente Orozco, Casa de Moneda/Banco de la Republica, Santa Fe de Bogotá, Colombia; Galeria Enrique Guerrero, Mexico City


José Clemente Orozco in the United States:1927-1934

Museum of Fine Arts, San Diego, California

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH

Museo Carrillo Gil, Mexico CitySelect Permanent Collections:

The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College

Fogg Museum of Art, Harvard

University; Vatican Museum, Rome, Italy; Museo

Nacional de Arte, Mexico City; Museo Carrillo Gil,

Mexico City, Phoenix Art Museum










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