Jose Clemente Orozco

7 mins read

José Clemente Orozco was a painter who was part of the generation of Mexican muralism, which emerged in the first half of the 20th century. Along with Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros, he became a fundamental reference in this movement and in Latin American art. Beyond these known facts, it is worth asking who José Clemente Orozco was, what was his style or what characterized him, what were his most important works and where are they located.


Jose Clemente Orozco: Self Portrait.

He was born in Jalisco on November 23, 1883. His parents were Irineo Orozco Vázquez and Rosa Juliana Flores Navarro. He spent part of his childhood in Guadalajara and later in Mexico City, where he was introduced to the work of José Guadalupe Posada.

Formation and studies

His first training experience in painting was at the San Carlos Academy of Fine Arts, where he received night classes for some time.

In 1897 his family enrolled him in the San Jacinto National School of Agriculture, where he graduated as an agricultural engineer. During this period, before graduating, he made a living by making topographical maps.

In 1904, Orozco lost his left hand in a gunpowder accident.

Between 1907 and 1914, he formally began his artistic training at the San Carlos Academy. There he received classes from the Spanish Antonio Fabrés. Shortly after, he met Dr. Atl (Gerardo Murillo), who guided him towards the investigation of the Mexican identity.

His first jobs

From 1911 he earned his living as a cartoonist in the publications El Hijo del Ahuizote, El Imparcial and La Vanguardia. In 1913 he became director of the publication La Malora.

In 1916 he held his first exhibition under the title The House of Tears, which took place in the Biblos bookstore in Mexico City.

Mexican muralism

In 1922, he joined David Alfaro Siqueiros, Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, and other prominent names in shaping Mexican muralism. Muralism was a movement that sought to return art to the public dimension and serve nationalism and the popular cause.

You may also like:

Private life

In 1923 he married Margarita Valladares, with whom he had three children.

international career

In 1928 José Clemente Orozco went to New York, USA, where he held the exhibition Drawings of the Revolution. Following this, in 1930 he executed a mural at Pomona College in California and, a year later, he executed another at the New School for Social Research in New York. He also traveled through Europe, where he studied the great masters of the baroque and met avant-garde artists.

I return to Mexico

In 1934 he returned to Mexico and committed himself to defending revolutionary values, becoming a highly valued artist.

From 1941 Orozco dedicated himself to easel painting, although he did not stop undertaking mural projects.

In 1943 he participated as a founding member of the National College. Orozco published his autobiography two years later, in 1945. In it he reveals his political disappointment.

In 1946 he joined the Mural Painting Commission of the National Institute of Fine Arts together with his peers Siqueiros and Rivera. That same year he received the National Award for Fine Arts from Mexico.

José Clemente Orozco died in Mexico City on September 7, 1949, as a result of cardiac arrest.

style and influences

Jose Clemente Orozco showed great interest in social issues, which in its first stage was expressed in the representation of the daily life of the subordinate world, bars and cabarets. His favorite topics were pre-Columbian history, the history of Mexico and criticism of the contemporary world. He avoided the mystification of the indigenous issue by perceiving it as part of the historical conflict in Mexico.

rejected western models classical and avant-garde, and became interested in the study of indigenous aesthetics. In his work male characters predominate. He inherited from the baroque the big diagonals in group compositions and the use of chiaroscuro as a dramatic device. I use the burning coloration, similar to expressionist vigor. He highlighted the geometrization of the figures. His characters used to be hieratic and robust. He preferred gigantism and monumentality in his compositions.

Works by Jose Clemente Orozco

The work of José Clemente Orozco is very prolific. The monumentality of most of his works, as well as the integration with the architectural space, has caused them to be separated by scenes for his study and dissemination. Below we present a series of essential examples to understand this artist from his initial phases.

Women dancing


Date: ca. 1913 Technique: Watercolor on paper. Dimensions: 39 x 53 cm. Location: Andrés Blaisten Collection, Mexico.



Date: 1925 Technique: Fresco Dimensions: 36 m² Location: Casa de los Azulejos, Mexico.

Cortes and Malinche

Date: 1926 Technique: Fresco Dimensions: no information Location: Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso

the trenches


Date: 1926 Technique: Fresco Dimensions: 1.8 x 5.5mts Location: Old College of San Ildefonso



Date: 1930 Technique: Fresco Dimensions: 609.6 x 868.68 cm Location: Pomona College Museum of Art, California.

Gods of the modern world


orozcoView of the complete wall complex. Top, side 1. Center: side 2. Bottom: portico. Date: 1932-1934 Technique: fresco Set or Series: The Epic of American Civilization Location: Dartmouth College, USA


Date: 1934-1935 Technique: Fresco on transportable metal frame. Dimensions: 11.46 x 4.46 meters. Location: Palace of Fine Arts, Mexico City.

The creative and rebellious man


Date: 1935–1937 Technique: Fresco Dimensions: 13.70 x 5.50 m Location: Museum of Arts of the University of Guadalajara (MUSA), Mexico.

the man on fire


Date: 1939 Technique: Fresco Dimensions: 11 x 27 meters. Location: Hospicio Cabañas, in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.


Date: 1947 Technique: Pyroxylin on masonite. Dimensions: 1,935 x 1,220 mm. Set or series: The teules.

It may interest you: David Alfaro Siqueiros: biography and works of the Mexican muralist.

Andrea Imaginary

University professor, singer, Bachelor of Arts (Cultural Promotion mention), with a master’s degree in Comparative Literature from the Central University of Venezuela, and a doctorate in History at the Autonomous University of Lisbon.

Previous Story

Frida Kahlo