Tuesday, December 09, 2008

08/09 Academic Decathlon Image #6

La Calavera Catrina (Calavera of the Fashionable Lady), Jose Guadalupe Posada, 1913, Relief Etching on Zinc (Art after Independence)

The first thing I want to mention is that Posada produced at least 2,000 plates for etching in his lifetime! Ay caramba!!! That is prolific! His work is often satirical, and his calaveras (skull in Spanish) were shown in every kind of activity as social and political satire. Like so many other artists, though he spent his life expressing the world he saw around him, he died in relative obscurity. Diego Rivera told stories about Posada as his teacher, though the veracity of those stories is questionable.

This print is one of his most famous. The etching process involved engraving on a sheet of metal then treating that metal in an acid bath that left the lines in relief. Many copies were printed from that plate which made it economical and capable of being distributed widely. One of the factors in his lack of notoriety is that he was paid much like a skilled laborer instead of a fine artist.

This skeleton is dressed in the fashion of a wealthy woman with her elegant hat and fancy hair ribbons. But as is often portrayed in Art History, death is a stranger to no one, and for the working class there was an element of comfort knowing that the powerful would meet their maker as everyone else. The grin and festive attitude of the calavera reminds the living to not take life so seriously - it's only life, after all! Read more about Posoda, etching, Diego's connection and more here.

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