Born in Aguascalientes, Mexico, José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913) is best known for his satirical and humorous illustrations of Mexican society. His influence as an illustrator and printmaker made a lasting impression on the prominent painter Diego Rivera as well as many other future artists.
For centuries, skulls and skeletons have been a popular motif found in Mexican art. While associated with the representation of death and often evoking feelings of morbidity, the use of these calaveras (skulls) and calacas (skeletons) in Mexican art and culture paints a more playful and sometimes humorous picture of death as a rite of passage to be celebrated.
During his career, Posada used calaveras in his numerous illustrations of political and social satire. One of the most iconic is that of La Calavera Catrina. Despite the elegantly adorned hat which implies her wealth and upper class standing, Posada shows that all people are equal at the end of their lives. With the depiction of this member of the privileged class grinning, even in death, "La Catrina" has become an important symbol of Día de los Muertos in Mexican culture.
Posada's illustrated broadsides (broad sheets) are held in the USC Libraries Boeckmann Center for Iberian & Latin American Studies in USC Libraries Special Collections.
In November 2019, students in SPAN 220 visited USC Libraries Special Collections to view original printed broadsides (broad sheets) of the famous Mexican printmaker José Guadalupe Posada, held in the José Guadalupe Posada Collection in USC Libraries Special Collections Boeckmann Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies. They also examined selected secondary materials on Posada and Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).
Each student selected one of Posada's broadsides illustrating a calavera (skull), wrote certain metadata elements (broadside title, date printed, short description), and wrote a short essay about the broadside.
Students learned about primary sources and how to evaluate visual primary sources as artistic and historical documents, specifically about J.G. Posada, his broadsides, and relationship to Dia de los Muertos. In addition, they learned about what Scalar is, relationship of metadata to a digital object, and how these will be used to help the class create their digital exhibit with Posada's Calaveras and their 200 word essays.
Scalar, a multimodal publishing system developed at USC, was used to publish this digital exhibit.