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Hot art: Visiting Orozco’s fiery murals in Guadalajara

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Hot art: Visiting Orozco’s fiery murals in Guadalajara

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He lost an eye and a hand in a fireworks accident. Still, Jose Clemente Orozco sure knew how to paint!

And the Orozco murals in Guadalajara are a must-see if you’re visiting this Mexican colonial city.

The fiery Orozco murals

Orozco learned to paint at a young age.

But tragically, he injured his left hand at the age of 21 while making fireworks for Mexico’s Independence Day, and his hand and wrist had to be amputated.

This didn’t stop Orozco from painting, however.

Orozco's mural of Miguel Hidalgo, Mexico's father of Independence, signing a document banning slavery in 1810
Orozco’s mural of Miguel Hidalgo, Mexico’s father of Independence, signing a document banning slavery in 1810

Orozco ended up becoming one of Mexico’s three greatest muralists – keeping good company with Diego Rivera (Kahlo Frido’s lover) and David Alfaro Siqueiros, the other two renowned muralists.

The Mexican mural movement arose in the 1920s (right after the Mexican Revolution from 1910 to 1917), when Mexico’s education minister commissioned artists to depict Mexico’s history on public buildings.

Most of the Mexican people were illiterate, and this was a way for them to visually understand their heritage.

Section of “La Trinchera” (The Trench) mural by Orozco in Mexico City’s San Ildefonso College (Credit: Leigh Thelmadatter)

Many of these murals depict Mexico’s struggle for independence and the suffering of the masses.

Read next! There’s cool art to be seen at the Diego Rivera Museum in Guanajuato

The Orozco murals in Guadalajara

The 57 frescoes Orozco painted inside the Hospicio Cabanas in Guadalajara in the late 1930s are considered his masterpiece works.

The Cabanas cultural center in Guadalajara is a showcase for Jose Clemente Orozco’s art

Built as an orphanage and hospital, the Hospicio Cabanas is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, cultural center and museum.

The building itself is quite the architectural sight, with 23 patios and courtyards linked by pink tile corridors.

Some of the Guadalajara murals decorating the Cabanas
Some of the Guadalajara murals decorating the Cabanas

Orozco Man of Fire

Of all the Jose Clemente Orozco paintings in Guadalajara, “Man of Fire” is the most intriguing (and one of the most famous).

The "Man of Fire" ceiling mural, one of Orozco's murals in Guadalajara
The “Man of Fire” ceiling mural

Gracing the Cabanas’ lofty ceiling, the “Man of Fire” mural shows a blazing man in flames rising upward – from torment toward enlightenment? Two other men encircle him.

What a trompe d’oeil it is!

When we walked around while also looking up, it appeared the vividly painted orange, black and grey figures also moved around in a circle.

The "Man of Fire" is one of Orozco's most famous murals.
The “Man of Fire” is one of Orozco’s most famous murals

Miguel Hidalgo mural and other Guadalajara murals

We also saw many more Orozco murals at the governor’s palace in Guadalajara, which is now a museum.

Most striking is the huge painting of a feisty white-haired Father Miguel Hidalgo wielding a burning torch, which greets you while climbing the staircase. Hidalgo, the father of the country, was the priest who inspired the Mexican people to rise up against their Spanish conquerors.

Orozco Murals

The Government Palace (or Palacio de Gobierno)

Avenida Ramon Corona 31, Zona Centro, Guadalajara
+52 33 3668 1825

One of the best things to do in Guadalajara

There are many fun things to do as you tour Guadalajara. One of them is seeing Orozco’s great works of art. They’re among the top Guadalajara attractions – so don’t miss them!

Seeing these emotional and thought-provoking Guadalajara murals opened our eyes to a world of art we hadn’t seen before.

Experience more of Mexico!

Read our posts on:

Guadalajara | Where to stay? Read our review of Villa Ganza, a lovely boutique hotel.

Cabo San Lucas | From whale watching to hiking up the Pedregal, check out these 25 epic things to do in Los Cabos.

Zihuatanejo | Want a great beach vacay? See the best beaches in Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa.

Mexico City | Fabulous museums. Gorgeous art. A rich historical center. There are oodles of cultural activities in Mexico City to enjoy.

Puerto Vallarta | Where to stay? You’ll love these beautiful boutique hotels in Puerto Vallarta.

Pssst! Don’t miss our:
Ultimate Mexico travel guide

It’s packed with travel information and tips on beautiful colonial cities you’ll want to visit, how to see Mexico by 1st class bus, great Mexican beach resorts and more!

Photo credits: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase

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Sunday 28th of October 2018

I was there last year and saw his paintings first hand. I can't say that I was a huge fan, the lines are very hard and the colours bleak. But you see his paintings and you'll always be able to identify an Orozco if you see one again.

Janice and George

Sunday 28th of October 2018

Yes, Orozco's work is pretty eye-catching, to say the least :-).

William David Theis

Saturday 12th of August 2017

Frida wasn't a muralist. The 3rd of the 'big three' is David Siqueiros...

Janice and George

Saturday 12th of August 2017

Frida Kahlo was Diego Rivera's lover. She wasn't one of the three muralists, but she was a very interesting painter in her own right! And a fascinating woman...

Thanks too for sharing the name of the third of the muralists. We probably should have made this clear :-).


Monday 25th of August 2014

Those are amazing. I love the fist coming down out of the celiing.


Sunday 24th of August 2014

I love murals, these are quite spectacular wow. I'm another one that didn't hear of Orozco before so thanks for this very informative post.

Ryan O'Rourke

Tuesday 19th of August 2014

These murals are unbelievable! I truthfully know very little about art (such as not understanding why something wrapped in a burlap bag, with a title akin to "Thing in Burlap Bag," belongs in a museum—yes, I've seen this), but this speaks to me. The message is clear and expressed with passion. This is totally the type of stuff I love discovering while travelling! Thanks for sharing, Janice :)


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