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José Guadalupe Posada in the Brady Nikas Collection 

Posada popularized skeletal images called calaveras. Originally La Cucutacha appeared in a 1912 broadside and was later renamed La Calavera Catrina by Diego Rivera.

Called the Father of Mexican Printing, Artist of the People, and a prophet, Mexican artist/engraver José Guadalupe Posada (1852–1913) is credited by some as having created over 20,000 images.

We knew little about Posada when we started to build a collection of his works. Perhaps our deep love of Mexico and its rich culture inspired us, or maybe we just liked the images. Regardless, more than thirty years have passed and, the Brady Nikas Collection has become one of the most comprehensive of its kind in the United States, containing significant, historical multi-themed images and original printing blocks by Mexican engravers José Guadalupe Posada, Manuel Manilla (1830–1895?) and their contemporaries. The collection comprises over 2,800 broadsides, bulletins, gazettes, chapbooks, restrikes, printed editions, books, ephemera, and 245 printing blocks (embracing lead engravings, acid etchings, and woodcuts).  

J.G. Posada and son, ca, 1900.

Dating mainly from 1893 to 1913, the collection includes many iconic, Day of the Dead associated, calavera images by Posada and Manilla such as La Calavera Catrina, El Gran Fandango, Juego de Oca, La Calavera Infernal, and La Torre Eiffel. Perhaps more importantly, the collection serves as an invaluable resource documenting the relationship that Posada and Manilla had with one of the most successful Mexico City-based publishers of the time, Antonio Vanegas Arroyo (1852–1917).

Although Posada created images for dozens of publishers, the catalog of images he fashioned for the Imprenta de Antonio Vanegas Arroyo is conceivably the best preserved and most significant because of its collective representation of the times. During that period, Posada produced thousands of political cartoons, early Mexican Revolution imagery, political, sensational, historical, and his famed calavera images. As testimony to the popularity of his images and the success of the printing house, the printing plates continued to be used for illustrating publications well after the deaths of Posada and Vanegas Arroyo. 

The Farewell

Championed by artist Jean Charlot beginning in 1925, and promoted, among others, by famed muralist Diego Rivera in 1930, Posada’s spirit would later influence artists of the Mexican collective known as the Taller Grafica Popular (TGP). This elevated Posada as an artist of the people and even as a revolutionary. As the TGP artists traveled, exhibited, and taught, Posada’s essence went with them and, in time, inspired generations of artists well into the social movement imagery of today.  

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