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Latin American Prints

There is a rich tradition of printmaking in Latin America, particularly in late 19th- and early 20th-century Mexico. Artists were typically active in political and social causes, and used the medium to be able to distribute images to the masses.

The graphic arts were a way to reach even poorly educated and illiterate citizens and unite them behind the cause against government injustices. Jose Gaudalupe Posada was the first to use animated skeletons, or "calaveras," to illustrate satirical lithographs and engraving for distribution. Associated with the folk art calavera from Mexican Day of the Dead traditions, the prints had broad appeal and near universal comprehension.

Mexican muralists Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueros also experimented with printmaking to reach broader audiences for their causes. Posters and images of the labors of Mexican life were popular products of their printmaking endeavors, though many also produced artistic images apart from political subject matter.

Quick Facts

  • The Taller de Grafica Popular was a printmaking collective founded in 1930s Mexico City to promote political ideas. Specializing in woodcuts and linocuts, the collective produced posters and illustrations, and eventually established an international presence
  • The Mexican-born printmaker Francisco Zuniga assimilated western printmaking methods and helped to spread the technique in Latin America. Zuniga did much to bring the medium to Mexico
  • Jose Posada's prints were brought outside of Mexico in the 1920s and reached a wider audience after their discovery by Jean Charlot, a French poster illustrator and lithographer, on a trip to visit Diego Rivera

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