José Clemente Orozco (November 23, 1883 - September 7, 1949) was a famous Mexican social realist painter, who specialized in bold murals that established the Mexican Mural Renaissance together with murals by Diego Rivera, Siqueiros, and others.
Orozco was the most complex of the Mexican muralists, fond of the theme of human suffering, but less realistic and fascinated by machines than Rivera. Mostly influenced by Symbolism, he was also a genre painter and lithographer. Between 1922 and 1948, Orozco painted murals in Mexico City, Orizaba, Claremont, California, New York City, Hanover, New Hampshire, Guadalajara, Jalisco, and Jiquilpan, Michoacán. His drawing and paintings are exhibited by the Carrillo Gil Museum in Mexico City, and the Orozco Workshop-Museum in Guadalajara.
Jose Clemente Orozco was born in Zapotlán el Grande (now Ciudad Guzmán), Jalisco to Rosa de Flores Orozco, married Margarita Valladares, and had three children.
As a young boy, Orozco's family moved from Cuidad Guzman to Guadalajara and then to Mexico City, where he attended primary school. At this time, Jose Guadalupe Posada, a satirical illustrator whose engravings about Mexican culture and politics challenged Mexicans to think differently about what was going on in post-revolutionary Mexico, worked in full view of the public in shop windows located on the way Orozco must travel to reach school. In his autobiography, Orozco confesses, “I would stop [on my way to and from school] and spend a few enchanted minutes in watching [Posada]… This was the push that first set my imagination in motion and impelled me to cover paper with my earliest little figures; this was my awakening to the existence of the art of painting.” (Orozco, 1962) He goes to say that watching Posado's engraving decorated gave him his introduction to the use of color. After attending school for Agriculture and Architecture, Orozco studied art in earnest at the San Carlos Academy.
With Diego Rivera, he was a leader of the Mexican Mural Renaissance. An important distinction he had from Rivera was his critical view of the Mexican Revolution. While Diego was a bold, optimistic figure, touting the glory of the revolution, Orozco was less comfortable with the bloody toll the social movement was taking. Orozco is known as one of the "Big Three" muralists along with Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros. All three artists, as well as the painter Rufino Tamayo, originated in Mexico, experimented with fresco on large walls, and elevated their art of mural in fresco to the world-fame class known as Mexican Mural Renaissance.
Between 1922-24, Orozco painted at the National Preparatory School the murals: "The Elements", "Man in Battle Against Nature", "Christ Destroys His Cross", "Destruction of the Old Order", "The Aristocrats", and "The Trench and the Trinity". In 1925, he painted the mural "Omniscience" at Mexico City's House of Tiles. In 1926 - another one at the Industrial School in Orizaba, Veracruz.
Between 1927-34 Orozco lived in the USA. In 1930, he painted murals at the New School for Social Research, New York City, now known as the New School University. One of his most famous murals is The Epic of American Civilization at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, USA. It was painted between 1932 and 1934 and covers almost 300 m² (3200 square feet) in 24 panels. Its parts include: "Migrations", "Human Sacrifices", "The Appearance of Quetzalcoatl", "Corn Culture", "Anglo-America", "Hispano-America", "Science" and another version of "Christ Destroys His Cross".
After returning to Mexico, between 1936-39, Orozco painted in Guadalajara, Jalisco - among others - the mural "The People and Its Leaders" in the Government Palace, and the frescos for the Hospicio Cabañas considered his masterpiece. In 1940 - for the Gabino Ortiz Library in Jiquilpan, Michoacán. Between 1942-44 - for the Hospital de Jesús in Mexico City. Orozco's 1948 "Juárez Reborn" huge portrait-mural was one of his last works.
He died on September 7, 1949, in Mexico City.