Hot Art: Orozco’s fiery murals in Guadalajara

In CULTURE by Janice and George12 Comments

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.

Miguel Hidalgo signs a document banning slavery in Mexico in 1810

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

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 Cabanas cultural center in Guadalajara, home to the "Man of Fire" mural

The Cabanas cultural center in Guadalajara, home to the “Man of Fire” mural

Murals decorate the Cabanas

Murals decorate the Cabanas

The "Man of Fire" ceiling mural

The “Man of Fire” ceiling mural

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.

Father Miguel Hidalgo brandishes a flaming torch in this mural

Father Miguel Hidalgo brandishes a flaming torch in this mural

Guadalajara Orozco murals

The murals dwarf visitors descending the stairs in the Governor’s Palace

photo Wonderlane

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.

What paintings have caught your eye on your travels?


  1. Frida wasn’t a muralist. The 3rd of the ‘big three’ is David Siqueiros…

    1. Author

      Yes, Frida was Diego Rivera’s lover — who was one of the three muralists. She was a very interesting painter though! And a fascinating woman… Thanks for sharing the name of the third of the muralists. We probably should have made this clear :-).

  2. 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.

  3. 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 :)

  4. Great post, Janice. I really love street art and murals. And Guadalajara is definitely on my list of places to visit. Orozco certainly was quite the artist! Would love to see this in person.

  5. That ceiling mural is pretty amazing. Its dark center is such a nice contrast with the surrounding light from the windows. Isn’t it great when you come across inspiring artists like Orozco? There is so much passion in his work – thank you for introducing me to him!

  6. My father was an artist/art teacher. He took us to live in Mexico for a year 1963-1964. We lived in San Miguel de Allende, but he took us to Mexico City and specifically to the National University to see the murals of Orozco and Siquieros and elsewhere to see murals by Diego Rivera. Naturally, I think of him when I see the works of or read about the famous Mexican muralists.

    1. Author

      How interesting! We visited San Miguel de Allende recently – but only for a few days. It must have been something to actually live there for a year as a girl. We know San Miguel is quite famous for its arts and culture and artistic influences.

    1. Author

      We too hadn’t heard of Orozco until visiting Guadalajara – Diego Rivera is more well-known to North Americans (perhaps because of Salma Hayek’s “Frida” movie).

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