José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913) was a Mexican lithographer and engraver who produced some 20,000 illustrations during his life. He mostly worked out of a print shop in Mexico City where he engraved illustrations for newspapers but the majority of his work was published in the the broadsides of the pennypress, a favourite among the poorer people.
It is his satirical calaveras (colloquial for skeletons) that have achieved lasting fame. They have been adopted as a motif by (or indeed, arose from) the Mexican celebration - Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).
Just by the by, this festival derives from the ancient practises of the mesoamerican civilizations combined with the catholic All Saints Day and has no association with the more macabre Halloween. While the Posada images recall the 15th century european figures from Holbein in the Danse Macabre, I could find no evidence to suggest that this was a direct influence on Posada. The images here and the background to Día de los Muertos are certainly evidence for the calaveras being a generally 'happy' form of illustration.
Diego Rivera was a big fan of Posada and together with other art students, they would go to the print shop to collect the shaving from the Posada's engraving blocks. Rivera would immortalize Posada in the mural Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central (Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda).
It was the nature of the times in Mexico that critical publications were suppressed, which meant that the biting satire of illustrations such as those of Posada became all the more poignant. The political and social threads in the illustrations often require some local background however. Despite the important place Posada holds in the pantheon of Mexican (print) art, he was largely unknown and very poor at the time of his death - at the beginning of the Mexican revolution.
- José Guadalupe Posada The Man His Art His Times.
- The University of New Mexico eLibrary have a large collection of Posada images, mostly from broadsides. (subject list)
- Printmaker of the Dead - San Jose University Posada website.
- Diego Rivera Museum display. (Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central)
- This site has reasonable reproductions of some calaveras.
- José Guadelupe Posada and the Corridos of the Mexican Revolution - a PhD excerpt.
- The Posada Museum -- a short review.
- Día de los Muertos - wikipedia.
- The Austin Chronicle exhibition review (not sure what year).
- Further Left Forum entry about Día de los Muertos.
- Día de los Muertos links - large set of links covering many subject areas, includes a number of Posada links.
- Und unten zerschellt das Gerippe - a recent entry by Suzanne G at Thee Temple ov Psychick Blah which, among other things, touches on Danse Macabre.
- José Guadalupe Posada - wikipedia.
- Addit: Someone pointed me to a recent Metafilter post which included this site on Día de los Muertos which has links to a lot of stuff in Mexico including photographs.
classic-that is, pre-Cortesian-art" says Diego Rivera when speaking of Posada.
"Another trait of Mexican classical art is its love of character."