He lost an eye and a hand in a fire.
Yet Jose Clemente Orozco was one of Mexico’s three greatest muralists (keeping good company with Diego Rivera, Kahlo Frido’s lover, also one of the trio of 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 murals depict Mexico’s struggle for independence and the suffering of the masses.
Guadalajara Orozco murals
Orozco’s masterpiece “Man of Fire” graces the lofty ceiling of the UNESCO-listed Cabanas cultural center in the Mexican colonial city of Guadalajara.
Formerly an orphanage, the Cabanas is quite the architectural site in its own right, with 23 patios and courtyards linked by pink tile corridors.
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.
We also saw many more Orozco murals at the governor’s palace, 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.
When in Guadalajara, be sure to take in some of Orozco’s great murals. The Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan is also worth a visit.