José Clemente Orozco
Mexican, 1883-1949

Zapata, 1930

Oil on canvas
198.8 x 122.6 cm (78 1/4 x 48 1/4 in.)
Signed lower left: J. C. Orozco
Inscribed lower left: S. F. JULIO, 1930
Gift of Joseph Winterbotham Collection, 1941.35

© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SOMAAP, Mexico City


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This dramatic canvas was painted during José Clemente Orozco’s self-imposed exile in the United States, where he moved in 1927, in part to escape political unrest, but also because he felt that it was increasingly difficult to get commissions in his native land. A leader of the Mexican mural movement of the 1920s and 1930s, Orozco claimed to have painted Zapata to finance his trip back to New York after completing a mural commission in California. For liberal Mexicans, Emiliano Zapata became a symbol of the Mexican Revolution (1910–20) after his assassination in 1919. The charismatic Zapata crusaded to return the enormous holdings of wealthy landowners to Mexico’s peasant population. Here his specterlike figure appears in the open door of a peasant hut. Despite the drama before him, the revolutionary hero seems solemn and unmoved. The painting is filled with menacing details—the bullets, the dagger, and especially the sword aimed at Zapata’s eye—and the somber palette of dark reds, browns, and blacks further underscores the danger of the revolutionary conflict.

— Entry, Essential Guide, 2013, p. 51.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

New York, American Federation of Arts (organizer), Mexican Arts, cat. 412, exhibited at Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 13-November 9, 1930, Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, November 25-December 16, 1930, Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute, January 7-February 4, 1931, Cleveland Museum of Art, February 18-March 11, 1931, Washington, Corcoran Gallery, April 1-22, 1931, Milwaukee Art Institute, May 13-June 3, 1931, Louisville, J.B. Speed Memorial Museum, June 24-July 15, 1931, and San Antonio, Pan-American Round Table, August 12-September 2, 1931.

New York, Delphic Studios and Alma Reed (organizer), Exhibition of Lithographs, Mural Studies, Photographs of Frescoes, Paintings, Drawings by José Clemente Orozco, cat. 23, exhibited at La Porte, Indiana, Civic Auditorium, April 6-29, 1934.

Chicago, Arts Club of Chicago, Exhibition of Paintings by José Clemente Orozco, May 23-June 15, 1934, cat. 10.

New York, Museum of Modern Art, Modern Works of Art; Fifth Anniversary Edition, November 20, 1934-January 20, 1935, cat. 121, ill.

Pittsburgh, PA, Carnegie Institute, The 1935 International Exhibition of Paintings, October 7-December 8, 1935, cat. 241, pl. 30.

New York, Hudson D. Walker Gallery, J. C. Orozco: Paintings and Drawings, October 2-21, 1939, cat. 11.

New York, Museum of Modern Art, Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art, February-November 1940, no cat.

Washington, DC, Pan American Union, Contemporary Art in Latin America, April 1942, n.pag., ill.

Rocky Mountain Council on Inter-American Affairs (organizer), Exhibition [Contemporary Latin American Painters], exhibited in Fort Collins, Colo., Colorado State University, March 6-24, 1943, no cat. located.

Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, The Winterbotham Collection, 1947, pp. 6, 32-33.

Chicago, Renaissance Society of the University of Chicago, José Clemente Orozco, 1883-1949, April 2-30, 1951, cat. 6.

Mexican government (organizer), exhibited in Paris, Musée national d'art moderne, under Art Mexicain du précolumbien a nos jours, May-July 1952, cat. 968, pl. 88, as Le Caudillo Zapata; Stockholm, Sweden, Liljevalchs Konsthall, under Mexikansk Konst från forntid till nutid, October 1952, cat. 953, pl. 52, as Hövdingen Zapata; and London, Tate Gallery, under Exhibition of Mexican Art from Pre-Columbian Times to the Present Day, March 4 to April 26, 1953, cat. 968, pl. 55 (in supplement), as The Caudillo (Leader) Zapata.

Pittsburgh, Pa., Carnegie Institute, Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings from Previous Internationals, 1896-1955, December 5, 1958-February 8, 1959, cat. 65.

Chicago, Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, Mexicanidad: Our Past Is Present, April 27, 2001-May 5, 2002, no cat.

Art Institute of Chicago, They Seek a City: Chicago and the Art of Migration, 1910-1950, March 3-June 3, 2013, cat. 41.

Publication History

José Clemente Orozco, introduction by Alma Reed (New York: Delphic Studios, 1932), ill. n.pag.

"Modern Art: 1821-1940; Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art," Bulletin of the Museum of Modern Art, 7, 2-3 (May 1940), p. 11.

Frederick A. Sweet, "The Leader, Zapata," Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago 35, 6 (November 1941), pp. 90-91, ill. p. 89.

Fernando Gamboa, José Clemente Orozco (Mexico: Ediciones de Arte, 1948), ill. p. 25.

Justino Fernandez, "Orozco's Zapata." Art Institute of Chicago Quarterly, 45, 4, (November 15, 1951), pp. 62-65.

MacKinley Helm, Man of Fire: J. C. Orozco: An Interpretative Memoir (Boston Institute of Contemporary Art/Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1953), ill. p. 149, pl. 15.

Alma Reed, Orozco (New York: Oxford University Press, 1956), pp. 192-94, 198, 200, 201-02.

Art Institute of Chicago, Paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago: A Catalogue of the Picture Collection (Art Institute of Chicago, 1961), pp. 346-47, ill. p. 472.

José Clemente Orozco, An Autobiography, trans. by Robert C. Stephenson, intro. by John Palmer Leeper (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1962), pp. 139-140.

John Hutton, "'If I am to die tomorrow'--Roots and Meanings of Orozco's Zapata Entering a Peasant's Hut," Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 11, 1 (Fall 1984), pp. 38-51, ill.

Laurance P. Hurlburt, The Mexican Muralists in the United States (University of New Mexico Press, 1989), p. 42, p. 266 n. 85.

Art Institute of Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago: Twentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture, selected by James N. Wood and Teri J. Edelstein (Art Institute of Chicago, 1996), p. 65, ill.

Victoria Price, Vincent Price: A Daughter's Biography (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999), pp. 83-84.

Judith A. Barter et al., "American Modernism at the Art Institute of Chicago, From World War I to 1955," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2009), cat. 85.

"Paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago, Highlights of the Collection," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2017) p. 115.

Ownership History

José Clemente Orozco; sold to Alma Reed/Delphic Studios, New York, by Oct. 1930 [exh. in American Federation of Art, Mexican Arts, 1930]; sold to Vincent Price, Hollywood, Calif., in 1938 [letter from Price in file]; sold to the Art Institute, 1941.