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 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.
Many of these murals depict Mexico’s struggle for independence and the suffering of the masses.
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.
Built as an orphanage and hospital, the Hospicio Cabanas is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and cultural center.
The building itself is quite the architectural sight, with 23 patios and courtyards linked by pink tile corridors.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Delve deeper into the life of Orozco, the history of the Mexican muralists and the city of Guadalajara…
All photos are © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase (except where noted)