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José Guadalupe Posada and Visual Culture in Porfirian Mexico

Summary and Keywords

José Guadalupe Posada (b. Aguascalientes, February 2, 1852; d. Mexico City, January 20, 1913) was a prolific printmaker of exceptional technique, range, and originality. By the time of his death, his images had become a staple of Mexico City popular culture, appearing regularly in theatrical posters, advertisements, book illustrations, broadsides, and the penny press. Despite his popularity with impresarios, advertisers, publishers, editors, and readers, Posada received scant formal recognition during his lifetime. That changed in the 1920s with his “discovery” by prominent artists and art critics including internationally renowned muralists Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco. By the 1940s, exhibitions of his work had begun to appear in major galleries and museums in the United States and Europe, promoted as evidence of a unique visual aesthetic rooted in traditional Mexican culture and committed to exposing the long-standing oppression of the Mexican people at the hands of corrupt politicians, greedy bourgeoisie, cruel caciques (local party bosses), and foreign interlopers. Although scholars have disputed the genealogy and political nature of Posada’s vision, the revolutionary nationalist interpretation of Rivera, Orozco, and others has provided inspiration and a sense of cultural legitimacy for succeeding generations of artists in Mexico and throughout the Mexican diaspora. Posada is best known for his striking calaveras, notably Calavera Catrina, a fashionable female skull with bows and a fancy hat; and La Calavera Oaxaqueña, a machete-wielding male skeleton dressed in a charro outfit. Published in conjunction with the annual celebrations for Day of the Dead (October 31–November 2) and accompanied by satiric verses, Posada’s calaveras poke fun at the pretentions of the living in the face of their inevitable mortality.

Keywords: José Guadalupe Posada, Antonio Vanegas Arroyo, Manuel Manilla, Calaveras, Hojas volantes, Prensa de a centavo, printmaking, muralist movement, Mexican popular culture, Día de los muertos

José Guadalupe Posada’s Early Years (1852–1872)

Reliable biographical information on Posada is scarce, especially for his early years. Official records indicate that he was born on February 2, 1852, in the provincial city of Aguascalientes. His parents were Petra Aguilar Portillo and Germán Posada Serna, a local baker. He was the sixth of eight children, including an elder brother, José Cirilo Posada, who directed the municipal school. It was likely Cirilo who taught him to read, write, (perhaps) draw, and help out with the younger students. He may have worked as a decorator in his uncle Manuel’s pottery shop and may have received some formal drawing instruction at the Municipal Academy of Arts and Trades. An 1867 local census lists his occupation as “painter.”

Posada’s career as a professional printmaker began the following year when he went to work in the commercial print shop of José Trinidad Pedroza. The shop supplied local and regional markets with designs, decorative calligraphy, illustrations, religious and patriotic posters, matchbooks, cigarette packs, advertisements, announcements, invitations, calling cards, diplomas, etc. The basic training in the design, techniques, and business of printmaking that Posada received in Pedroza’s shop stood him in good stead, and he would continue to produce these commercial staples for the rest of his career.

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Figure 1. José Guadalupe Posada (artist). Nuestra Señora de San Juan de los Lagos que se venera en el estado de Jalisco. Mexico City: Antonio Vanegas Arroyo, 1910. The Library of Congress. Our Lady of Saint John of the Lakes who is venerated in Jalisco. Home altars were a common feature in Mexican dwellings, especially among the urban working classes. Altars typically included printed religious images, often with stories about miraculous interventions in the lives of ordinary folks.

José Guadalupe Posada and Visual Culture in Porfirian MexicoClick to view larger

Figure 2. José Guadalupe Posada (artist), author unknown. Oración dedicada a la sombra de Señor San Pedro. Mexico City: Antonio Vanegas Arroyo, 1909. The Library of Congress. Prayer dedicated to the Shade of Saint Peter. The accompanying story credits Saint Peter with saving the life of a traveler who wakes to find a poisonous snake in his bed.

The well-connected Pedroza also introduced his young apprentice to the fine art of political caricature, a central feature of the period’s periodismo de combate (combat journalism).1 Posada’s first signed caricature appeared in the June 11, 1871, edition of El Jicote (The Wasp), a partisan periodical edited by his employer. The eleven images produced for El Jicote over the course of that year reveal a skilled draftsman and subtle caricaturist, well-versed in the late-romantic visual idiom and satirical style of Mexico City periodicals such as La Orquesta (1861–1867) and El Padre Cobos (1869–1876)—a style developed by prominent illustrators such as Constantino Escalante, Santiago Hernández, Alejandro Casarín, Jesús Alamilla, and José María Villasana.2 Although his style would change over the years, political caricature and social commentary would remain staples in Posada’s printmaking repertoire.

The exact nature of Posada’s political leanings has been a subject of scholarly dispute for decades. For the early years, it seems safe to position him as a committed liberal who shared the partisan inclinations of his older brother Cirilo and his employer Pedroza. Understanding how he got there requires some historical background. In the first two decades of Posada’s life, the prosperous Bajío region of Mexico, which includes Aguascalientes, endured a traumatic series of political upheavals with profound social and economic consequences. These upheavals began with the liberal Revolution of Ayutla (1854–1855) that successfully deposed the conservative centralist government of eleven-time president Antonio López de Santa Anna (1794–1876). Once in power, liberals inaugurated a period known as La Reforma after a series of “reform” laws that sought, among other things, to diminish the power of the Catholic Church in Mexican society. These liberal reforms culminated in the 1857 Constitution, which ended special privileges (fueros) for the clergy and military; abolished slavery; prohibited judicial torture; and ensured individual rights including freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and secular education. Conservative reaction was swift, spurred on by the fierce opposition of Pope Pius IX and Archbishop José Lázaro de la Garza y Ballesteros, who threatened to excommunicate Catholics who swore allegiance to the new constitution (as all Mexican citizens were required to do). This sparked the War of the Reform (1857–1860), a bloody civil war between liberals and conservatives. One important theater of the war was staunchly liberal Aguascalientes—granted statehood by the 1857 Constitution—under its interim governor, war hero, and eventual liberal martyr, José María Chávez, who happened to be the uncle of Posada’s future employer Pedroza.

In the wake of a devastating civil war and Mexico’s unsurprising inability to pay its foreign creditors, France, with the initial support of Great Britain and Spain, sent in troops, ostensibly to collect debts and guarantee “free trade.” Defeated by the Mexicans at Puebla on May 5, 1862, the French army returned with reinforcements the following year, took Mexico City, and began the difficult process of pacifying the country in the face of fierce liberal resistance. In 1864, French authorities and their conservative Mexican allies crowned Hapsburg prince Maximilian, “Emperor of Mexico.” Liberal resilience and strong US opposition to a foreign presence in Mexico—especially with the end of the US Civil War in 1865—forced the French army to withdraw two years later. In 1867, liberal forces liberated Mexico City, routed the conservative army, and executed Maximilian. Under the so-called Restored Republic, President Benito Juárez (1806–1872) and his successor, Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada (1872–1876), began a process of political, social, economic, and cultural modernization that would transform Mexico in often unexpected ways—a troubled process that Posada would critique in exquisite satirical detail.

In the hothouse political climate of Aguascalientes, national politics took a personal turn after the War of the Reform as Pedroza and the Club Chávez de Aguascalientes turned on the sitting governor Jesús Gómez Portugal (1820–1875) in the 1871 elections. The hotly contested presidential race featured three prominent candidates: elder statesmen Benito Juárez, younger statesman Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada, and much-decorated war hero General Porfirio Díaz. The governor was linked to the camarilla (political clique) of Lerdo de Tejada; while Club Chávez and its periódico de combate (combat journal), El Jicote, threw its support behind a member of Díaz’s camarilla, a prominent landowner Carlos Barrón, who would go on to win the election. Posada’s early caricatures reflect this internecine struggle between liberal factions in Aguascalientes with personalized attacks on Gómez Portugal (portrayed as an alcoholic despot), local Gomista party bosses (as circus performers), the editor of the opposition newspaper (for his failure as hospital director to control an epidemic), and other assorted sycophants. In the final caricature, a representative of the “people”—dressed in coarse cotton clothing with a serape—triumphs over two Gomista politicians, but there is little evidence of proto-revolutionary politics in any of the images even by the liberal standards of the time.

Provincial Printmaker (1872–1888)

In 1872, Trindad Pedroza moved to León, Guanajuato, to open a second print shop. He took the twenty-year-old Posada along to help run the business. Their reasons for leaving Aguascalientes are unclear. In some versions of the story, the two men were forced to flee political persecution and possibly violence at the hands of former governor Gómez Portugal’s henchmen, even though their pro-Díaz candidate had won the 1871 state election. In other versions, the move was driven mostly by business rather than political concerns: León was a much larger city and an important regional commercial and transportation hub.3 Whatever the reasons for the initial move, Pedroza moved back to Aguascalientes the following year and left his young protégé in charge. In 1875, Posada married the sixteen-year-old María de Jesús Vela. By 1876, he had done well enough to buy the print shop business, hire his younger brother Ciriaco, and change the name to Imprenta y Litografía de Guadalupe Posada y Hermano. His only child, Juan Sabino, was born in 1882. According to municipal records, Posada was appointed professor of lithography at the Escuela de Instrucción Secundaria (School of Secondary Instruction) in 1884 and held the position for four years. Although the biographical data is sketchy and much of it is anecdotal, by all accounts Posada emerges as a hardworking, well-regarded, moderately successful provincial printmaker and shop owner.

The mid-1870s was the heyday of periódismo de combate (combat journalism). During this period, partisan journalists took advantage of a relatively free press under President Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada in order to viciously attack their political opponents. In particular, Lerdo de Tejada’s efforts to amend the constitution to allow for his re-election in 1876 drew merciless fire from pro-Díaz journalists. For his part, Porfirio Díaz issued an anti-re-election manifesto, the Plan de Tuxtepec, led a successful rebellion, and assumed the presidency in 1877—a position he would relinquish for just one four-year term (1880–1884) over the next thirty-three years. One of these porfirista combat journalists, the pugnacious Ireneo Paz (1836–1924), would later commission Posada images for his popular weekly newspaper, La Patria Ilustrada, and may even have encouraged Posada’s move to Mexico City in 1888.

Despite an early introduction to combat journalism with El Jicote, however, Posada’s work in León during this volatile period in national politics was primarily commercial rather than political. This included standard fare such as order and receipt forms; calling cards; announcements; invitations; diplomas; flyers; religious and patriotic images; and printed packaging for cigars, cigarettes, and match books. Posada also found a niche providing lithographs and prints for respectable periodicals such El Pueblo Católico and La Educación; and the daily newspaper, La Gacetilla, whose motto, “todo menos política” (everything but politics), also speaks to Posada’s work at this middle stage in his career. Elaborate lithographs for government-sponsored publications like Efemérides guanajuatenses (Daily Chronicle of Guanajuato)—a four-volume history of the city—and an elaborate map of León’s commercial district demonstrate his considerable technical prowess and solid reputation.

Posada’s reasons for leaving León are unclear, but there is likely some connection to the historic flood of June 18–19, 1888. According to official reports, the flood destroyed 117 city blocks, 2,232 dwellings, and left behind over 200 dead bodies, 5,000 homeless families, and an estimated 1,400 missing persons. Posada had resigned his teaching position earlier that year, possibly in preparation for a move to Mexico City, so he may not have been in León for the flood itself. Regardless, he probably lost most of his equipment, business records, and personnel effects in the disaster. In subsequent years, he would produce harrowing images of floods, which suggests that it made a deep impression.4

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Figure 3. José Guadalupe Posada (artist), author unknown. La inundación de Guanajuato y su causa verdadera. Mexico City: Antonio Vanegas Arroyo, 1905. The Library of Congress. Caption/translation: The Guanajuato Flood and Its True Cause.

The People’s Printmaker (1888–1913)

Whatever the reasons for leaving León, Posada had already established important connections in Mexico City with Ireneo Paz, editor of a well-established illustrated periodical La Patria Ilustrada; and his son Arturo Paz, writer and editor of La Juventud Literaria, whose note of introduction predicted that Posada would become Mexico’s “premiere caricaturist, premiere draughtsman.”5 By 1890, he had his own shop, which allowed for a wider range of commercial work. At some point, his son Juan Sabino came to work with his father, but died of typhus in 1900 at age seventeen. Posada moved out of his downtown print shop sometime in 1906, presumably to cut costs in the face of declining business. He died on January 20, 1913, some months after the death of his wife. The coroner listed cause of death as acute, alcoholic enteritis, which lends credence to rumors that he went on regular end-of-the-year binges. Posada was buried in a sixth-class grave for paupers in the municipal cemetery, the Panteón de Dolores (Mausoleum of Sorrows).

In 1888, the year Posada arrived, Mexico City had close to 325,000 people and Porfirio Díaz would begin his third term as president. By 1910, the city’s population had risen to around 475,000 and the president was entering his eighth and final term in office. During that period, the literacy rate in the capital would rise from around 40 percent to 50 percent, more than twice the national percentage.6 This was due in part to increased government investment in education, especially in urban areas; and city residents’ wider exposure to print culture. Late 19th-century improvements in the nation’s transportation and communication infrastructure spurred economic growth, especially in the capital and surrounding districts, and migrants—including Posada and his family—flocked to Mexico City in search of economic opportunities. For the moment at least, the pax porfiriana seemed to be working and the city boasted a growing middle class, expanding commercial sector, and rising wages. As early as 1890, however, wages had begun to stagnate and living costs to rise. The Porfirian social compact would hold together for another twenty years, even as the promise of modernization failed to meet expectations and the lives of all but the wealthiest Mexicans became increasingly precarious. The 1910 election of Porfirio Díaz to an eighth term as president was the final straw and his failure to contain a growing revolt led to ouster and exile the following year. Posada lived long enough to see Díaz’s challenger, Francisco Madero, elected to the presidency in 1911, but he died a month before the “Apostle of Democracy” was assassinated on February 22, 1913.

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Figure 4. José Guadalupe Posada (artist), author unknown. Calaveras Del Montón, Número 2. Mexico City: Antonio Vanegas Arroyo, 1910. The Library of Congress. Calaveras from the Heap/Ordinary Calaveras, Number 2.

Posada arrived in Mexico City an accomplished provincial printmaker. Over the course of the next twenty-four years, he would become—as Arturo Paz predicated—Mexico’s premiere caricaturist and draftsman. The astonishing variety of genres, themes, styles, and techniques he employed during his Mexico City years make categorizing and cataloging his work exceptionally difficult. Rather than try to tease out distinct genres, themes, and styles, this overview organizes the work around clients and consumers, much as Posada himself probably did.

As noted earlier, Posada’s entrée into Mexico City print culture came through his connections to Ireneo Paz, a former pro-Díaz combat journalist. Paz’s well-regarded weekly, La Patria Ilustrada, was popular among the capital’s literati and the educated middle classes, whose lives it chronicled, glamorized, and satirized in equal measure. In Posada’s lithographs for La Patria Ilustrada, art historian Joyce Waddell Bailey detects a stylistic shift in which “staid poses and careful rendering are replaced by animated figures and lively, even exuberant lines.”7 Although La Patria Ilustrada ceased publication the following year, Posada would continue to provide lithographs, engravings, and etching for periodicals edited by Ireneo Paz and his son Arturo until at least 1907. Included in these images are two of his most memorable characters, Padre Cobos and Doña Caralampia Mondongo: the first an obese sanctimonious friar (a stock figure in anti-clerical iconography throughout Latin America); the second, a snaggletoothed older woman forced to clean house (in a metaphorical sense) after inept men.

His work for another editor of middle-class periodicals, Francisco Montes de Oca, suggests that the shift from “staid” to “animated” figures noted by Bailey was less an evolution of Posada’s style than an expansion of his stylistic repertoire. This is evident in an 1897 cover for El Popular that juxtaposes an exuberant masthead with a more carefully rendered (if slightly risqué) full-length engraving of an actress.8 Posada’s more animated style, however, took center stage in two other Montes de Oca periodicals, Gil Blas and Gil Blas Cómico, both less expensive and more polemical than El Popular. Montes de Oca’s relentless attacks on the government-subsidized mainstream press, official corruption, and predatory elites landed him in jail on occasion and even led to a duel with another newspaper editor, but he mostly avoided direct criticism of the president—as did his illustrators, including Posada.9

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Figure 5. José Guadalupe Posada (artist), author unknown. 1904 glorias de México! Porfirio Díaz y Ramón Corral electos por el voto unánime del pueblo para presidente y vice-presidente de la República Mexicana. Mexico City: Antonio Vanegas Arroyo, 1904. The Library of Congress. 1904 glories of Mexico! Porfirio Díaz and Ramón Corral elected by the people’s unanimous vote for president and vice president of the Mexican Republic.

As had been the case in León, Posada was a sought-after book illustrator, especially for fictional and educational books on different topics directed at the literate upper and middle classes. For the most part, these illustrations resemble his work for high-end periodical editors like Paz and Montes de Oca, including a strong costumbrista element that drew on Posada’s gift for caricature to produce charming and sometimes eccentric variations on easily recognizable social types, fictional characters, and historical figures. Subject matter varied widely: serious fiction and poetry (Arturo Paz’s novel Sofía, a translation of Friedrich Schiller’s Canto de la campana), fairy tales, children’s stories, animal fables, songbooks, love letter collections, cookbooks, hypnotism and fortune-telling manuals, and color illustrations for the Biblioteca del Niño Mexicano with stories from Mexican history by well-known journalist/novelist Heriberto Frías.

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Figure 6. José Guadalupe Posada (artist), author unknown. 67 Adivinanzas. Mexico City: Antonio Vanegas Arroyo, between 1890 and 1913. The Library of Congress. 67 Riddles.

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Figure 7. José Guadalupe Posada (artist), author unknown. Juego Del Circo. Mexico City: Antonio Vanegas Arroyo between 1890 and 1917. The Library of Congress. Circus Game.

Posada began making images for the Antonio Vanegas Arroyo workshop in 1891. Newspaper editors like Paz and (to a lesser extent) Montes de Oca directed their periodicals at highly literate middle- and upper-class consumers; Vanegas Arroyo, a self-styled editor popular, targeted less well-to-do artisans, workers, and the petite bourgeoisie whose living standards and social status were all becomingly increasingly precarious. The often crude-looking Vanegas Arroyo “house style” realized by Posada and his senior colleague Manuel Manilla was especially tailored to these readers—and may have helped constitute them as a distinct constituency defined by shared experiences (including literary consumption) and a sense of themselves as the true Mexican “people” in opposition to Porfirian cultural elites, including the much reviled científicos, Díaz’s cadre of policy advisors, social engineers, and in-house intellectuals.10

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Figure 8. José Guadalupe Posada (artist), author unknown. La calavera del editor popular Antonio Vanegas Arroyo. Mexico City: Antonio Vanegas Arroyo, dated 1917. The Library of Congress. Calavera of the popular editor Antonio Vanegas Arroyo.

Most of Posada’s images for Vanegas Arroyo are in two distinct styles: one an improvisatory version of the fluid style developed for Paz and Montes de Oca, the other a sharp-edged wood block style that owed an obvious debt to Manilla. These images appeared on single-sheet hojas volantes (broadsides/broadsheets) sold by street vendors all over the city. The subject matter was heterogeneous, the tone usually sensationalistic. For instance, Vanegas Arroyo’s signature Gaceta Callejera (Street Gazette) from the mid-1890s marked “sensational events” of interest to its readers: funerals of prominent men, police suppression of riots, executions by firing squad, society murders, accounts of memorable bullfights, and even a patriotic re-enactment of Cinco de Mayo. The formula must have proven successful because by the turn of the century, Vanegas Arroyo had dropped the special edition format and expanded his coverage of gruesome crimes, natural disasters, train wrecks, salacious scandals, executions of all kinds, supernatural punishments, scandalous transvestites, prominent suicides, foreign interlopers, and the exploits of notorious bandits (escapes, captures, punishments). Compelling images by Posada and Manilla were the main draw, but they were accompanied by satiric poems, exemplary stories, news stories, and song lyrics composed by a stable of house writers including Constancio Suárez and possibly Vanegas Arroyo himself. The result was a self-consciously “popular” genre that “rejected the cultural imperatives of the newspaper (regularity, seriousness, the taking of an identifiable and committed position as a participant in the political drama), and which deliberately aligned news, as embodied in a commodity, with its antithesis, with gossip, scandal, the cycles of life and death, and annual religious celebrations.”11 This deliberately unconventional alignment with the interests, concerns, and desires of the less-privileged sectors of Mexican society has made the Vanegas Arroyo broadsides, especially Posada’s images, such a valuable resource for cultural historians.

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Figure 9. José Guadalupe Posada (artist), author unknown. Terrible y verdadera noticia del espantoso ejemplar ocurrido con Norberta Reyes, que cerca de la ciudad de Zamora. Mexico City: Antonio Vanegas Arroyo, between 1890 and 1913. The Library of Congress. The terrible but true news of the horrific events surrounding Norberta Reyes, which occurred near the city of Zamora. According to the story Norberta had run off with a man, returned home in distress, and then murdered her parents when they suggested she move to a new town. She was attacked and killed by wild dogs as she fled the scene of the crime.

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Figure 10. José Guadalupe Posada (artist), author unknown. La calavera del cólera morbo. Mexico City: Antonio Vanegas Arroyo, 1910. The Library of Congress. Calavera of the Deadly Cholera.

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Figure 11. José Guadalupe Posada (artist), author unknown. Gran calavera eléctrica, que se les va a regalar, calavera muy fachosa de pura electricidad. Mexico City: Antonio Vanegas Arroyo, 1907. Photograph. The Library of Congress. Great electric calavera, our gift to you, a ridiculous calavera of pure electricity.

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Figure 12. José Guadalupe Posada (artist), author unknown. El Mosquito Americano. Mexico City: Antonio Vanegas Arroyo, between 1910 and 1913. The Library of Congress. The American Mosquito.

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Figure 13. José Guadalupe Posada (artist), author unknown. Verdaderos versos de Macario Romero. Mexico City: Antonio Vanegas Arroyo, between 1890 and 1909. The Library of Congress. True Verses of Macario Romero. Macario Romerio was a bandit/insurgent who fought valiantly against the government of Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada. He was treacherously killed by his fiancée’s father in the late 1870s.

The popular—if not yet populist—perspective evident in (and produced by) Vanegas Arroyo publications comes to the fore in two distinctive genres: one a specialty of the house, the other an elaboration of a traditional form with deep roots in Mexican culture. Most sources credit Antonio Vanegas Arroyo with the creation of the comical Don Chepito Marihuano, whose marijuana smoking ways belied an apparently respectable middle-class demeanor. But it was Posada’s vignettes of a bald, bespectacled, self-important man dressed in a suit with shiny shoes, starched collar, bow tie, bowler hat, and umbrella that drive the humor as the naïve (or stoned) Don Chepito suffers repeated humiliation at the hands of young women, raging bulls, angered husbands, and the vicissitudes of modern life in the big city. Posada is best known for his striking calaveras, notably Calavera Catrina, a fashionable female skull with bows and a fancy hat; and La Calavera Oaxaqueña, a machete-wielding male skeleton dressed in a charro outfit. Published in conjunction with the annual celebrations for Day of the Dead (October 31–November 2) and accompanied by satiric verses, Posada’s calaveras poke fun at the pretentions of the living in the face of their inevitable mortality. For example, his 1910 Calaveras del Montón (Skeletons from the Heap/Ordinary Skeletons) depicts future president Francisco Madero as a sandal-wearing campesino with straw hat, serape, cotton pants, and bottle of aguardiente from his father’s distillery. The prescient final verse reads: “The world is going to end/in enraged fury/well, let it be welcome/if touch us it must/but I don’t want to say so/it causes me despair/because we’ll surely see/skeletons from the heap” (See fig. 4).12

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Figure 14. José Guadalupe Posada (artist), author unknown. Calavera Oaxaqueña. Mexico City: Antonio Vanegas Arroyo, 1903. The Library of Congress. Calavera from Oaxaca.

The populist potential, latent in Posada’s work for Vanegas Arroyo, is more evident in his images for the satiric penny press for workers.13 This has as much to do with context as it does with the images themselves. The turn of the century saw the emergence of periodicals that sought to appeal directly to Mexico City’s working classes, everyone from lower-middle class wage workers and artisans to factory/workshop workers and day laborers. These newspapers made no secret of their allegiance to la clase obrera (working class) and their opposition to corrupt officials, abusive bosses, and the exploitative Porfirian bourgeoisie. Posada was a regularly featured cover illustrator for many of them, including two of the most popular, La Guacamaya (The Squawking Parrot) and El Diablito Rojo (The Little Red Devil). The politically charged context for his images is clear in an image that appears twice in El Diablito Rojo, once as a “Proyecto de un monumento al pueblo” (Project for a Monument to the People) and again as “Parece chía: pero es horchata” (Seems like Chia, but it’s Horchata). The image references the famous Hellenistic statue of Laocoön and his sons caught in the coils of serpents. Posada’s version replaces the Trojan priest and his sons with a mestizo-looking Mexican male worker cast as “the people,” a male artisan as “the proletariat,” and an Indian woman as “the indigenous race.” Three serpents are labeled “party bossism” (cacicazgo), “misery,” and “slavers and gangsters” (negreros and cabecillas). Another classically inflected image, Calvario moderno (Modern Calvary), depicts a campesino in a straw hat labeled “the working class” who has been nailed to a cross. A foreman pierces his side with a spear while his destitute family and friends look on; the wound in his side spews coins that fall into the outstretched hats of corpulent “bourgeois” capitalists.14 Unlike combat journalists such as Daniel Cabrera, satiric penny press editors rarely crossed the line into direct criticism of Porfirio Díaz or his regime, and rumors that Posada (along with Vanegas Arroyo) might have spent time in jail are likely exaggerated or false. Nonetheless, satiric penny press attacks on a corrupt and exploitative system likely played in role in undermining the legitimacy of Porfirian efforts to modernize Mexico—efforts that editors mercilessly mocked—and the Díaz regime’s ultimately unsuccessful attempts to squelch popular resistance.

Genres, Styles, and Techniques

Posada was a prolific, somewhat successful commercial printmaker who produced images on demand for a wide range of clients over a forty-five-year professional career. Conservative estimates put the number of images attributable to Posada at around sixteen hundred; other (less reliable) estimates range from ten thousand to twenty thousand.15 Whatever the actual number, Posada was exceptionally versatile, producing images for periodicals, broadsides, chapbooks, conventional books, posters, programs, brochures, and advertisements. Moreover, his work within these different print genres was remarkably diverse. His periodical illustrations ranged from elaborately shaded lithographs for higher-end publications to crude-looking prints for the popular penny press in two distinct styles, one angular and sharp-edged like a traditional woodcut, the other fluid and improvisatory like a quick sketch. The broadsides employed the same techniques to illustrate sensational news stories, exemplary tales, religious and patriotic icons, corridos (ballads), calaveras (skeletons), and even board games (See fig. 4).16 Religious and patriotic imagery favored a more traditional, reverential style; while corridos, chapbook, book illustrations, and advertisements often took on a 19th-century costumbrista look that featured popular social “types” like the charro (cowboy), chinaco (horseman), lecherous priest, old crone, and the china poblana (a woman dressed in a “traditional” outfit consisting of a shawl, embroidered white blouse, and full skirt).17

Posada employed a range of printmaking techniques (relief, intaglio, lithography) and mediums (limestone, metal, wood). As a commercial printmaker, his choice of technique and medium depended for the most part on the nature of the work. The more laborious and costly process of producing and printing lithographs was mostly reserved for high-end periodicals, product packaging, and book illustrations, while less time-consuming and cheaper techniques such as engraving, etching, and (possibly) photomechanical processes served for low-end broadsides, penny press covers, and flyers.

By the second half of the 19th century, lithography had become a popular way to print multiple high-quality copies of images that preserved the subtle shifts of tone and texture achieved by drawing in pencil, crayon, charcoal, or chalk on paper. The basic lithographic process involved drawing with some sort of greasy medium (oil, fat, wax) either directly on a smooth limestone block or on transfer paper. Once the image was drawn on or transferred to a limestone block, it was covered with a mixture of acid and gum Arabic to fix the image. Water was applied to the stone and absorbed by the blank areas. Ink was then applied to the image (and repelled by the water) that was pressed onto paper. Posada’s early caricatures for El Jicote demonstrate his mastery of these lithographic methods. And by the late 19th century, printmakers were using multiple stones to produce color lithographs—a technique apparent in some of Posada’s later advertisements and book covers.

Art historians disagree on Posada’s other printmaking techniques. According to Patrick Frank, he did most of the work for broadsheets and the penny press on metal plates using white-line and black-line techniques:

The white-line technique involved gouging out the negative (white) spaces from a soft type-metal plate, leaving the subject in relief. Black-line work . . . probably meant drawing on a harder and lighter zinc plate with acid resistant ink, and then bathing it in a nitric solution that would lower the negative spaces.18

For Frank, these two techniques account for the striking contrast in Posada’s later prints between the “decisive and bold” cuts of his white-line work and the looser, “vigorously spontaneous” style of his black-line prints.19 With a lineage that dates back to early admirers like Jean Charlot, this account of Posada’s methods casts him as a dyed-in-the-wool artisan-artist committed to maintaining traditional engraving methods in the face of more “modern” printmaking technologies and the encroachment of photography, a ubiquitous feature of mainstream Mexico City newspapers by the first decade of the 20th century.

This artisanal view of Posada’s methods has been challenged in recent years, most notably by Thomas Gretton. Characterizing traditional black-line and white-line processes as “abstruse and archaic handicraft techniques,” Gretton argues that Posada regularly employed—albeit not always in a conventional way—a photomechanical process called “line block,” especially in his later work for Vanegas Arroyo and the satiric penny press for workers.20 This line block process used a high-contrast photographic negative of a black and white illustration (probably drawn on scraperboard) to transfer a water-resistant image onto a metal plate, which was then etched with acid to hollow out the negative spaces as in black-line printing. Posada—or possibly shop assistants—then finished off the plates by hand using more traditional engraving techniques. Gretton concludes that despite their handmade appearance, the photomechanical production of these images obliges “us to reconsider Posada’s ‘metal-cut’ imagery not as a heroic anti-modernizing technique but as a style evolved as part of an innovative exploitation of new technologies.”21

Posada’s Legacy

Scholars may differ on Posada’s influences, techniques, and political views but none would dispute his powerful impact on subsequent generations of Mexican artists. Posada images were a staple of Mexican popular visual culture during the late Porfiriato and into the revolutionary period. They appeared in everything from advertisements and event posters to book illustrations, broadsides, and the penny press. Although undeniably popular, there is no evidence to suggest that clients or consumers considered his images anything more than ephemera, something to be enjoyed in the moment and discarded after use.

That view changed dramatically in the 1920s as life in Mexico City began to recover from a tumultuous revolutionary decade. In an effort to bolster the legitimacy of the revolutionary state, the ambitious head of the new Secretariat of Education, José Vasconcelos, commissioned prominent (mostly) younger artists to paint murals in public buildings to promote an accessible and inclusive vision of revolutionary Mexico. This vision was to be grounded in the nation’s history, culture, and people construed as an amalgam of Hispanic and indigenous influences—a historical, cultural, and biological mestizaje (mixture) that set Mexico apart from its precolonial, colonial, and neocolonial past. As a mestizo artisan-artist with an eclectic but decidedly Mexican style, Posada came to occupy a central place in this vision, conferring popular legitimacy on his would-be successors.

Although Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Álfaro Siquieros would become the international face of the Mexican muralist movement, it was their French-born colleague, Jean Charlot, who first drew serious attention to Posada’s work, which still appeared from time to time in publications of the Vanegas Arroyo family, who owned and continued to reuse a large number of his plates. In an influential 1925 article for Revista de Revistas, “Precursor of the Mexican art movement: The Printmaker Posada,” Charlot presented Posada as the culmination of deeply rooted, uniquely Mexican aesthetic tradition: “In Mexico, an expressive country [país plástico] par excellence, the mountains, the pyramids, the ramshackle huts [jacales], the utensils of daily life, even the noble folds of dresses and children’s toys, are of a beauty as solid as that of the most classical civilizations . . . The work of Guadalupe Posada proves it. He . . . created the authentically Mexican print.”22 A 1930 essay by Diego Rivera echoed Charlot’s assessment, insisting that “the production of Posada, free even of a shadow of imitation, has a pure Mexican quality.”23 And in catalog notes for a 1944 Posada exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, cultural promotor and museum curator Fernando Gamboa offered an unequivocal endorsement of the nativist view:

Posada’s art knew no decadence. He . . . revealed himself to be of the same nature as the Indian sculptor, author of the Aztec sculpture Coatlicue or “The Goddess of Death,” and other anonymous artists who, during three centuries of colonial domination, carved sculptures in hundreds of churches and were able to develop a personal style . . . His life and works have become the foundation of Mexican printmaking and have vitally contributed to the formation of contemporary Mexican art.24

Scholars have disputed this nativist view of Posada and his work, but it was central to the cultural politics of Mexican revolutionary nationalism as it sought to distance itself from Marxist-inspired revolutionary movements in the Soviet Union and elsewhere—and from its own middle-class roots. This was true even for self-proclaimed communist Diego Rivera, who recollected seeing Posada in his downtown workshop as a child—a memory most scholars have dismissed as fantasy or fabrication—as well as for his less doctrinaire colleague José Clemente Orozco, whose recovered memories of the Master at work seem more credible. Regardless, both men used the Posada connection to burnish their revolutionary credentials and link their work to an “authentic” popular perspective, untainted by association with the imitative culture of Porfirian elites. In a late mural, Dream of Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central (1946–1947), Rivera cast Posada and La Calavera Catrina as his father and mother—sometime wife Frida Kahlo and onetime mentor José Vasconcelos are just behind him—a striking tribute to Posada’s centrality to the post-revolutionary imagined community.

The 1937 founding of the Taller de Gráfica Popular (Workshop for Popular Graphic Art) further solidified Posada’s stature among a younger generation of revolutionary Mexican artists, including Taller founders Leopoldo Méndez, Pablo O’Higgins, and Alfredo Zarce.25 Méndez’s dramatic 1953 print, Homenaje a Posada (Homage to Posada), which depicts the Master, burin (engraver) in hand, observing mounted police break up a political demonstration while radical revolutionaries, Juan Sarabia and the Flores Magón brothers look on, realizes a scene taken directly from Diego Rivera’s vivid prose description of Posada at work. Less revolutionary than his Taller counterparts, graphic artist Francisco Díaz de León played a central role in preserving another piece of Posada’s legacy: developing a printmaking program for Diego Rivera’s Escuela Central de Artes Plásticas (Central School for the Expressive Arts) in 1929; founding Mexico’s first printmaking school, the Escuela Mexicana de Artes del Libro (Mexican School of the Arts of the Book) in 1938; and amassing an important collections of Posada prints.

Enthusiasm for the new Mexican art in general and Posada in particular spread quickly. By the 1930s, the “people’s printmaker” had begun to attract serious attention among the French avant garde. Influential surrealist André Bretón included Posada images in a 1937 edition of the journal Minotaur along with a cover illustration by René Magritte and story by Franz Kafka. The next year, Bretón visited Mexico in person, declaring it “the most surrealist country in the world.” He returned to France with an eclectic mix of Mexican artifacts including pre-Columbian ceramics, masks, candy skulls, photographs by Manuel Álvarez Bravo, paintings by Frida Kahlo, and prints by Posada—all of which he put on display at a prominent Parisian gallery. Major exhibitions of Posada’s work began shortly afterward with a 1943 retrospective at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City and an influential 1944 exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. These first exhibitions established Posada as a major artist and contributed to his growing international reputation. The relative accessibility of his style, widespread availability of his prints, and his officially sanctioned image as the embodiment of Mexican popular culture have made Posada’s work a perennial favorite, especially for smaller regional museums in Mexico and their counterparts in the southwestern and western United States seeking to appeal to a growing Latino constituency.

Posada’s transnational appeal has not been confined to museum goers. In the 1970s, activists in the Chicano Art Movement turned to Posada for political, cultural, and artistic inspiration. The Royal Chicano Air Force (RCAF)—a Sacramento art collective founded in 1970 by José Montoya and Esteban Villa to train young artists and promote political action through popular art—claimed Posada as a spiritual godfather in the struggle against oppression, including in support of César Chávez and the United Farmworkers’ efforts to get union recognition from California growers. Some of the RCAF’s best-known images—silkscreened posters for Pachuco Arts, Día de los Muertos, José G Posada, etc.—combine reverence for the Master with an exuberant hodgepodge of popular styles that has continued to characterize Chicanx art into the 21st century.

Discussion of the Literature

The literature on José Guadalupe Posada reflects two distinct interpretations of his work. The orthodox view casts Posada as an uncompromising “people’s” artist with an aesthetic vision rooted in traditional (even indigenous) Mexican culture, a stubborn commitment to traditional artisanal techniques, and a sympathy for revolutionary politics. In contrast, revisionist scholars highlight Posada’s indebtedness to European visual culture, his willingness to adapt modern printmaking technologies, and his contradictory political views. The dispute between orthodox and revisionist interpretations of Posada and his work revolves around three interrelated issues: artistic influences, artistic methods, and political views.

The question of artistic influences is the least controversial. As noted earlier, for his early admirers, Posada was a Mexican original. Despite the enduring appeal of this nativist view, however, most subsequent scholars have acknowledged the European antecedents of Posada’s style, linking it to both the distinguished printmaking tradition of Honoré Daumier and Francisco Goya and the anonymous illustrators of mid-19th-century Parisian scandal sheets.26 Not only were these European images readily available in 19th-century Mexico City, the capital boasted a number of first-rate illustrators working in mostly European idioms, including prominent caricaturists such as Constantino Escalante, Santiago Hernández, Alejandro Casarín, Jesús Alamilla, and José María Villasana. Whatever Posada’s exposure to European originals, the influence of these Mexican printmakers on his work is indisputable. Moreover, motifs and iconography taken directly from the European artistic tradition predominate in Posada’s religious and patriotic images, and his political caricatures often draw overtly on classical predecessors. For example, a well-known image for “Proyecto de un monumento al pueblo” (Project for a Monument to the People) from El Diablito Rojo, references the much-admired Hellenistic statue, Laocoön and his sons, a copy of which was on display at the Academy of San Marcos near his Mexico City shop.27 Posada prints of firing squad executions owe an obvious debt to Francisco Goya’s The Third of May 1808 and Édouard Manet’s The Execution of Emperor Maximilian.28 Art historians have even traced the inspiration for Posada’s distinctive calaveras to medieval European and mid-19th-century Mexican sources and noted the decisive role of his older coworker for the Vanegas Arroyo enterprise, Manuel Manilla, in their creation.29 Given the eclectic nature of Posada’s work and his unabashed references to Mexican and European artists, the revisionist position on artistic influences has won over all but the most ardent nativists.

The scholarly dispute over Posada’s printmaking techniques has been more contentious. As noted earlier, the dispute revolves around whether or not Posada employed the “modern” photomechanical line block process in his work for Vanegas Arroyo and the penny press for workers—and to lesser extent whether or not he employed shop assistants to help speed up the engraving process. The orthodox position, first articulated by Jean Charlot, holds that Posada relied on simple white-line (engraved) and black-line (drawn and etched) techniques for most Vanegas Arroyo broadsides and low-end penny press covers. The revisionist position, stated most emphatically by Thomas Gretton, contends that Posada made innovative use of a modern printmaking technology called line block—which uses high-contrast photographic negatives to transfer designs onto metal blocks—and shop assistants to cut costs and speed up the printmaking process. The orthodox position sees Posada as a traditional artisan resistant to modern printmaking technologies and thus representative of popular resistance to the Porfirian regime’s modernization efforts. The revisionist position casts him as an innovator open to new technologies. It argues further that Posada, abetted by Vanegas Arroyo, deliberately used these new technologies to produce crude images in “traditional” styles to appeal to readers who sought to set themselves apart from the pretentious modernism of cultural elites.30

At the heart of the orthodox/revisionist debate is the complicated question of Posada’s politics. Early advocates like revolutionary muralists Jean Charlot, Diego Rivera, and (to a lesser extent) José Clemente Orozco saw Posada a direct precursor to their own politically charged art. This gave them a direct stake in the production of a mythical Posada, the embodiment of an authentic Mexican popular culture that they had inherited and would bring to into full revolutionary consciousness. In an important introductory collection of Posada’s prints, Rivera pictures: “a worker’s hand, armed with a steel graver, [that] cuts into the metal, with aid of corrosive acid, to hurl the sharpest invectives at the exploiters; precursor of [radical revolutionary leaders] Flores Magón, Zapata and Santañón; a daring skirmisher with broadsides and heroic opposition periodicals.”31 This is the vision depicted in Leopoldo Méndez’s dramatic print, Homenje a Posada (1953), which appears regularly in books and exhibitions about Posada. Although less common in more recent scholarship, the view of Posada as a political radical has shown remarkable resilience in popular accounts of his work.

Revisionist scholars have taken issue with what they consider a serious misrepresentation of Posada’s politics. Rafael Barajas Durán—a political cartoonist in his own right—has noted Posada’s contributions to porfirista periodicals, his flattering images of Porfirio Díaz as a national hero, and a series of vicious anti-Madero and anti-Zapata images from his last years (see fig. 2).32 John Lear offers a more judicious interpretation. He notes “Posada’s empathy for the concerns of the lower classes, his satire of corrupt politicians and decadent elites, and his denunciation of the latter’s abuses and imitative European culture,” but adds that Posada studiously avoided direct criticism of Porfirio Díaz and his administration, especially in the Vanegas Arroyo broadsides.33 Thomas Gretton provides a theoretical framework that links Posada to the construction of the “people” and the “popular” in early 20th-century Mexico, arguing that “the emergence of ‘modern’ national consciousness requires a ‘popular’ consciousness, distinct from, but dependent on ‘elite’ consciousness.”34 On this view, the construction of the “people” and the “popular” in opposition to the modernizing project of the cultural elites may have produced revolutionary effects by helping undermine the legitimacy of the Porfirian regime, but this was an unintended consequence rather than deliberate intention on Posada’s part.35

Primary Sources

Posada’s work can be found in various collections throughout Mexico. In Aguascalientes, hundreds of illustrations are housed at the Museo José Guadalupe Posada and the Biblioteca Pública Central Centenario-Bicentenario. In Mexico City, the Museo de Arte Moderno has a collection of his prints, which have been exhibited around the world. Additionally, descendants of the Vanegas Arroyo family possess a large archive, but its whereabouts are unknown (one newspaper article points to a private collection at Calle Penitenciaría 27, Mexico City).

Newspaper sources, which include many Posada prints, can be located at several archives in Mexico City. Some include the Hemeroteca Nacional at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, the Hemeroteca at the Archivo General de La Nación, and the Hemeroteca at the Biblioteca Miguel Lerdo de Tejada.

In the Unites States, broadsides, booklets, pamphlets, stereotype plates, and other material relating to Posada’s work can be found in several collections such as the Ammon Carter Museum of Western Art in Fort Worth, Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley, Library of Congress, Marian Koogler McNay Art Institute in San Antonio, Museum of Modern Art in New York, Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas at Austin, and Yale University Art Gallery.

Several digitized collections of Posada’s work can be accessed online. Most are of single prints and broadsides. Two noteworthy collections are the Jean Charlot Collection at the University of Hawaii for its holdings of children pamphlets and the Ibero-American Institute collection for its diverse works, high-resolution, and complete booklets.

Further Reading

Barajas Durán, Rafael (el Fisgón). Posada mito y mitote: La caricature política de José Guadalupe Posada y Manuel Alfonso Manilla. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2009.Find this resource:

    Buffington, Robert M. A Sentimental Education for the Working Man: The Mexico City Penny Press, 1900–1910. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

      Cardoza y Aragón, Luis. José Guadalupe Posada. Mexico City: Universidad Autónoma de México, 1963.Find this resource:

        Charlot, Jean. “Un precursor del movimiento de arte mexicano: El grabador Posada.” Revista de revistas: El semanario nacional (Mexico City), August 30, 1925, p. 25.Find this resource:

          Frank, Patrick. Posada’s Broadsheets: Mexican Popular Imagery, 1890–1910. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1998.Find this resource:

            Galí Boadella, Montserrat. “José Guadalupe Posada: Tradition and Modernity in Images,” in Posada: Mexican Engraver, 45–62. Seville and Mexico City: Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo/Editorial RM, 2008.Find this resource:

              Gamboa, Fernando. Posada: Printmaker to the Mexican People. Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1944.Find this resource:

                Gómez Serrano, Jesús. José Guadalupe Posada, testigo y crítico de su tiempo: Aguascalientes, 1866–1876. Aguascalientes, Mexico: Instituto Cultural de Aguascalientes, 2001.Find this resource:

                  González Mello, Renato. “Posada y sus coleccionistas extranjeros.” In México en el mundo de las colecciones de arte. México modern, 313–372. Mexico City: UNAM, Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, 1994.Find this resource:

                    Gretton, Thomas. “Posada and the ‘Popular’: Commodities and Social Constructs in Mexico before the Revolution.” Oxford Art Journal 17, no. 2 (1994): 32–47.Find this resource:

                      Gretton, Thomas. “Posada’s Prints as Photomechanical Artefacts.” Print Quarterly 9, no. 4 (December 1992): 335–356.Find this resource:

                        Lear, John. Picturing the Proletariat: Artists and Labor in Revolutionary Mexico, 1908–1940. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2017.Find this resource:

                          López Casillas, Mercurio. Posada: Illustrator of Chapbooks. Mexico City: Editorial RM, 2005.Find this resource:

                            López Casillas, Mercurio. Posada and Manilla: Illustrators for Mexican Fairy Tales/Posada y Manilla: Artistas del cuento mexicano. Mexico City: Editorial RM, 2013.Find this resource:

                              López Casillas, Mercurio. “Posada: Professional of the Image,” in Posada: Mexican Engraver, 85–97. Seville and Mexico City: Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo/Editorial RM, 2008.Find this resource:

                                Miliotes, Diane. José Guadalupe Posada and the Mexican Broadside/José Guadalupe Posada y la hoja volante mexicana. New Haven, CT; and London: The Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2006.Find this resource:

                                  Pellicier, Carlos. José Guadalupe Posada: Ilustrador de la vida mexicana. Mexico City: Fondo Editorial de la Plástica Mexicana, 1963.Find this resource:

                                    Posada, José Guadalupe. Posada y la prensa ilustrada: Signos de modernización y resistencias. Exhibition Catalog. Mexico City: Museo Nacional de Arte/Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, 1996.Find this resource:

                                      Posada, José Guadalupe. Posada: monografía de 406 grabados de José Guadalupe Posada con introducción de Diego Rivera/Posada: Monograph of 460 Engravings by José Guadalupe Posada with an introduction by Diego Rivera. Mexico City: Editorial RM/Libros del Rincon/Secretaría de Educación Pública, SEP, 2012.Find this resource:

                                        Rodríguez, Artemio, ed. José Guadalupe Posada, 150 años/150 years. Los Angeles: La Mano Press, 2003.Find this resource:

                                          Rodríguez, Antonio. Posada: El artista que retrató a una época. Mexico City: Instituto Politécnico Nacional, 2009.Find this resource:

                                            Sánchez González, Agustín. La portentosa vida de José Guadalupe Posada. Monterrey, Mexico: Ediciones de Don Lupe, 2013.Find this resource:

                                              Segre, Erica. Intersected Identities: Strategies of Visualization in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Mexican Culture. New York: Berghahn Books, 2007.Find this resource:

                                                Soler, Jaime, and Lorenzo Avila, eds. Posada y la prensa ilustrada: Signos de modernización y resistencias. Mexico City: Patronato del Museo Nacional de Arte/Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, 1996.Find this resource:

                                                  Topete del Valle, Alejandro. José Guadalupe Posada: Prócer de la gráfica popular mexicana. Mexico City: Edición del Seminario de Cultura Mexicana, 1957.Find this resource:

                                                    Tyler, Ron, ed. Posada’s Mexico. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1979.Find this resource:


                                                      (1.) Pablo Piccato, The Tyranny of Opinion: Honor in the Construction of the Mexican Public Sphere (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), 63–95.

                                                      (2.) All eleven caricatures are reproduced in Rafael Barajas Durán (el Fisgón), Posada mito y mitote: La caricature política de José Guadalupe Posada y Manuel Alfonso Manilla (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2009), 38–49. On this period, see Rafael Barajas Durán (el Fisgón), El país de “El Ahuizote.” La caricature Mexicana de oposición durante el gobierno de Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada (1972–1876) (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2005).

                                                      (3.) Agustín Sánchez González, La portentosa vida de José Guadalupe Posada (Monterrey, Mexico: Ediciones de Don Lupe, 2013), 63–65.

                                                      (4.) Barajas Durán, Posada mito y mitote, 64–71.

                                                      (5.) Quoted in Sánchez González, La portentosa vida de José Guadalupe Posada, 98.

                                                      (6.) Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática, “Educación,” Estadísticas históricas de México, vol. 1 (Mexico City: INEGI, 1994), 95–142. On literacy rates for artisans, see Carlos Illades, Hacia la republica del trabajo: La organización artisanal en la ciudad de México, 1853–1876 (Mexico City: El Colegio de México/Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana—Iztapalapa, 1996), 185–186.

                                                      (7.) Joyce Waddell Baily, “The Penny Press,” in Ron Tyler, ed. Posada’s Mexico (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1979), 104.

                                                      (8.) Baily, “The Penny Press,” 108.

                                                      (9.) Barajas Durán, Posada mito y mitote, 121–160.

                                                      (10.) Thomas Gretton, “Posada and the ‘Popular’: Commodities and Social Constructs in Mexico before the Revolution,” Oxford Art Journal 17, no. 2 (1994): 33.

                                                      (11.) Gretton, “Posada and the ‘Popular,’” 36.

                                                      (12.) Tyler, Posada’s Mexico, 234.

                                                      (13.) Robert Buffington, A Sentimental Education for the Working Man: The Mexico City Penny Press, 1900–1910 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015), 132–138.

                                                      (14.) John Lear, Picturing the Proletariat: Artists and Labor in Revolutionary Mexico, 1908–1940 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2017), 33–37.

                                                      (15.) Thomas Gretton, “Posada’s Prints as Photomechanical Artefacts,” Print Quarterly 9, no. 4 (December 1992): 336.

                                                      (16.) On Posada’s genres and styles see Mercurio López Casillas, “Posada: Professional of the Image,” in Posada: Mexican Engraver (Seville and Mexico City: Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo/Editorial RM, 2008), 85–97; and Jas Reuter, “The Popular Traditions,” in Posada’s Mexico, 59–83.

                                                      (17.) For more on the history of costubrismo in Mexican lithography see María Esther Pérez Salas, Costumbrismo y litografía en México: un nuevo modo de ver (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, 2005).

                                                      (18.) Patrick Frank, Posada’s Broadsheets: Mexican Popular Imagery, 1890–1910 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1998), 6–7.

                                                      (19.) Frank, Posada’s Broadsheets, 16. See also Artemio Rodríguez, “Technique/Técnica,” in José Guadalupe Posada, 150 años/150 years (Los Angeles: La Mano Press, 2003), 123–125.

                                                      (20.) Gretton, “Posada’s Prints as Photomechanical Artefacts,” 335.

                                                      (21.) Gretton, “Posada’s Prints as Photomechanical Artefacts,” 354. See also Rachel Freeman, “The Making of the Mexican Broadside Print: Technical Note,” in Diane Miliotes, ed., José Guadalupe Posada and the Mexican Broadside/José Guadalupe Posada y la hoja volante mexicana (New Haven, CT; and London: The Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2006), 37–40.

                                                      (22.) Jean Charlot, “Un precursor del movimiento del arte mexicano: el grabador Posada,” Revista de Revistas 25 (August 30, 1925).

                                                      (23.) José Guadalupe Posada, Posada: Monografía de 406 grabados de José Guadalupe Posada con introducción de Diego Rivera/Posada: Monograph of 460 Engravings by José Guadalupe Posada with an introduction by Diego Rivera (Mexico City: Editorial RM/Libros del Rincon/Secretaría de Educación Pública, SEP, 2012), 4.

                                                      (24.) Fernando Gamboa, Posada: Printmaker to the Mexican People (Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1944), 11.

                                                      (25.) Helga Prignitz-Poda, El Taller de Gráfica Popular en México (Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, 1992). By the 1950s, some artists and art critics had begun to openly criticize Taller artists for their adherence to outmoded techniques and derivative style.

                                                      (26.) Frank, Posada’s Broadsheets, 10–14.

                                                      (27.) Lear, Picturing the Proletariat, 33–34.

                                                      (28.) See, for example, Gretton, “Posada and the ‘Popular,’” 42–43.

                                                      (29.) See especially Joyce Waddell Bailey, “The Penny Press,” 85–121.

                                                      (30.) Gretton, “Posada and the ‘Popular,’” 32–47.

                                                      (31.) Posada, Monografía de 406 grabados de José Guadalupe, 3.

                                                      (32.) Barajas Durán, Posada mito y mitote.

                                                      (33.) Lear, Picturing the Proletariat, 32.

                                                      (34.) Gretton, “Posada and the ‘Popular,’” 42.

                                                      (35.) On the revolutionary potential of populism in late Porfirian Mexico, see Buffington, Sentimental Education for the Working Man, 131–138.