Skeleton engraver. El grabador.

The New York Public Library’s Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs holds one of the largest collections of original Posada prints outside Mexico. This display and the accompanying online exhibition present a selection of Posada’s calaveras and announce the digitization of the entirety of the Library’s Posada collection—over 500 items—now freely available to all through The New York Public Library’s Digital Collections.

La División Miriam e Ira D. Wallach de Arte, Grabados y Fotografías de la Biblioteca Pública de Nueva York posee una de las colecciones más grandes de grabados originales de Posada fuera de México. Esta pequeña muestra, y una versión virtual ampliada de la misma, presenta una selección de las calaveras de Posada y anuncia la digitalización completa de la Colección Posada de la Biblioteca. Con ello, más de 500 piezas están disponibles gratuitamente para todos a través de las Colecciones Digitales de la Biblioteca Pública de Nueva York.

In English

print of skeleton wearing a decorative hat with feathers and flowers

The Skeleton Caricatures of Posada

When he died, amid the political and social upheaval of the Mexican Revolution, the artist José Guadalupe Posada (1852–1913) left behind an enormous body of work. A commercial illustrator, Posada created designs that appeared in advertisements, periodicals, cookbooks, children’s books, and, most famously, on the brightly-colored penny broadsheets sold primarily to the working class in and around Mexico City.

In the aftermath of the Revolution, activist artists like Diego Rivera, Jean Charlot, José Clemente Orozco, and Leopoldo Méndez sought to delineate an authentically Mexican artistic tradition, and held up Posada, then half-forgotten, as a cultural hero. Today, Posada is recognized as one of the most influential artists in Mexican history. He is best known for his calaveras — the skeleton caricatures that adorned the special broadsheets issued for Day of the Dead, the November 2nd holiday when Mexicans honor and celebrate lost loved ones.

En Español

crowded skeleton scene in background, foreground features clothed skeleton wearing a large hat and holding a machete

Las meras meras calaveras de Posada

José Guadalupe Posada (1852–1913) murió en medio de la convulsión política y social de la Revolución mexicana dejando una enorme obra. Fue un artista incansable cuyos diseños aparecieron en innumerables revistas, periódicos, afiches, libros infantiles, modelos para bordar y recetarios, entre otros lugares más. Sin embargo, fueron los grabados que creó para las hojas volantes —por lo regular impresas en papel de colores vibrantes—, lo que lo llevó a la fama. Eran principalmente adquiridas por la clase trabajadora de la Ciudad de México y sus alrededores.

A raíz de la Revolución, artistas y activistas como Diego Rivera, Leopoldo Méndez, Jean Charlot y José Clemente Orozco buscaron delinear una tradición artística auténticamente mexicana, y consideraron a Posada no solo un modelo a seguir sino también un héroe cultural. Hoy Posada es reconocido como uno de los artistas más influyentes en la historia de México. Es mejor conocido por sus calaveras, aquellas caricaturas de esqueletos que adornaban las hojas volantes emitidas especialmente para el Día de Muertos, fecha en que los mexicanos honran y conmemoran a sus seres queridos difuntos y celebran la fugacidad de la vida.

Pieces on Display | Piezas en la exhibición física

orange broadsheet with creature with skull for head and six legs and tail surrounded by bones
Ramón N. Franco (author | autor)
Anonymous (illustrator) | Anónimo (ilustrador)
The Calavera Is Already Here | Ya está aquí la calavera
1918
Broadsheet with text in spanish and skeleton caricature of woman wearing a large hat
Calaveras of the Cockroach | Calaveras de la Cucaracha
circa 1913–20
red broadsheet with skeleton caricature wearing a large hat and pants and holding a machete
Calaveras from the Heap. Number 1 | Calaveras del montón. Número 1
1910
broadsheet with text and caricature of a bald man wearing a suit holding and staring at a skull
Arturo Espinosa (author | autor)
Calavera of the Presidential Elections | Calavera de las elecciones presidenciales
1919
green broadsheet with skeleton caricatures of a man in a suit and woman in a dress and a cemetary scene
The New Calaveras of Love | Las nuevas calaveras del amor
1912
blue broadside with skeleton caricature with a bus and a pile of skulls
The Calavera of the Bus Drivers | La calavera de los chafiretes
between 1917 and 1928 | entre 1917 y 1928
yellow broadsheet with print of artist and musician skeletons engulfed in flames
The Artistic Purgatory in Which the Skeletons of Artists and Craftsmen Lay | El purgatorio artístico en el que yacen las calaveras de los artistas y los artesanos
1904

Installation views | Fotos de la instalación

installation photograph of case with panel on left
close-up photograph of ofrenda inside case. ofrenda includes a marigold flower, a votive candle, a bowl of salt and a shotglass of tequila
panel with bilingual introductory text
close-up photograph of print block inside case

New Accessions: Unboxing Posada

Go behind the scenes with Paloma Celis Carbajal, the Library’s Curator for Latin American, Iberian, and U.S. Latino Collections, as she unboxes some new accessions illustrated by the Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada. Also: learn about the Library’s world-class Posada collection, and its recent digitization. Produced and directed by Charles Cuykendall Carter.

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