José Clemente Orozco
The Epic of American Civilization

José Clemente Orozco (1883–1949) was born in the province of Jalisco, Mexico, where he lived until moving with his family to Mexico City at the age of seven. There Orozco began his schooling in art at the San Carlos Academy of Fine Arts, exhibited his early works, and later painted some of his most famous public murals. His murals, like those of his countrymen Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siquieros, often address the social and political questions of the Mexican post-revolutionary period and contribute to the outstanding body of works associated with the Mexican mural renaissance.

From 1932 to 1934, Orozco was artist-in-residence at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, where he had been commissioned to paint a mural in the Reserve Reading Room of Baker Library. The impressive 150-foot mural, The Epic of American Civilization, remains Orozco's unique legacy to the college. The mural represents Orozco's conception of a history of the development of the New World and the impact of the intertwined currents of indigenous and European experience on the continent. The two halves of the mural, devoted to pre-Columbian America and to post-Cortez America, highlight the duality of the "American" experience, a duality in which Orozco portrays humanity as it struggles toward greatness yet stumbles in the face of shared human frailties.

The following images represent 14 of the major panels of The Epic of American Civilization. For various interpretations of the mural, please consult the materials on reserve at Baker Library.

Orozco's murals can also be seen in Mexico City, Orizaba, Guadalajara, and Jiquilpan, Mexico, and in New York City and Claremont, California.

Click on a link below to view the mural panel in new window