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The poet and art critic Xavier Villaurrutia believes José Clemente Orozco’s murals were his best works; then his drawings, lithographs, and engravings and, lastly, his oil paintings. Villaurrutia believes that oil painting was not the most suitable medium for an artist to express his innermost world because it required a sensuality and voluptuousness that had never been Orozco’s strong suit. The Jalisco painter, according to Villaurrutia, was more adept at large mural spaces (and more skilled at depicting important figures in his “visual drama”) or in the small medium of drawings, lithographs, and metal engravings. According to the author, the genius of Orozco’s work could be found in its form, the definition of its lines, and its composition.


Xavier Villaurrutia’s (1903–1950) essay is one of the finest interpretations of José Clemente Orozco’s (1883–1949) œuvre because it places emphasis on the importance of his graphic work and his most sordid creations. Although Orozco considered them to be the weaker element of his production, Villaurrutia believes the artist’s caricatures were of fundamental importance because they permitted him to generate an unequivocal distinction between the simple illustrator and the artist with formal education. 

Villaurrutia transcends value judgments in order to focus on an analysis of the formal aspects of Orozco’s œuvre. In doing so, he enriches art criticism by enticing a discussion based on the work itself, at the same moment in which the development of the national arts appeared to depend on battles that were more political than artistic. Critics who were fundamental in the history of Mexican art were interested in Orozco’s painting, including: Justino Fernández (1901–1972), Luis Cardoza y Aragón (1901–1992), and Villaurrutia himself.

Mireida Velázquez : CURARE A. C.
CURARE, Espacio crítico para las artes, Mexico City, Mexico
Courtesy of Carlos O. Horcasitas Villaurrutia, Mexico City, Mexico
Instituto de Investigaciones Bibliográficas : Biblioteca Nacional/Hemeroteca Nacional