José Guadalupe Posada Aguilar (February 2, 1852 – January 20, 1913) was a Mexican illustrator and engraver whose work has influenced many Latin American artists and cartoonists. Posada developed a technique where he could directly draw on a metal plate that could be placed on the printing press at the same time as the type was placed thus saving enormous amount of time and increasing production. In his life time, he produced perhaps as many as 20,000 images of which perhaps 2000 still survive.
Posada's most known works use skeletons and skulls, often in costumes. The "Skull of the Female Dandy" or "La Catrina", was used to satirize the life of the upper classes during the reign of Porfirio Díaz. The use of skulls or calaveras also demonstrates in death, we are all equal despite different economic levels while living. Overtime Posada's images of calaveras have become associated with the Mexican holiday of the Day of the Dead or Día de Muertos.
Drawn to sensation, his works often include unsavory aspects of life such as murder, illicit love affairs and politics. He also produced images for games, religious art, books and booklets, politics, romance, and disasters, in short, anything he could sell.
José Guadalupe Posada died January 20, 1913 in obscurity and poverty. He was buried in in the Dolores Cemetery in Mexico City. At the time of Posada's death, he was unknown. Yet his images would have been immediately recognized by countless masses across Mexico. In 1920, his remains were washed out in heavy rains.
Slowly, Posada gained recognition in the art world. 1929-1930, Diego Rivera paints his mural Mural Sueño de una Tarde Dominical en la Alameda Central in the Mexican National Palace placing Posada's Catrina prominently in the center. 1930, Monografía: Las Obras de José Guadalupe Posada, Grabador Mexicano, the first book about Posada and his art was published. In 1943, the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City had the first major exhibition of Posada's works.
In 1972, the José Guadalupe Posada Museum was opened in the city of Aguascalientes. It contains some original printed plates with which he created his graphic images as well as some examples of his work. The museum is located next to a 18th century baroque Church and the museum itself is located in what was the priest's cloisters and residence. There are numerous Youtube videos (in Spanish) of the museum.
If you are interested in viewing more of Posada's art work, you might want to visit José Guadalupe Posada. This site is operated by the University of Austin.
If you are interested in this topic, you might be interested in these topics. What is Día de Muertos? and Día de Muertos Decorations.
All the images are in public domain.