American Civilization – The Gods of the Modern World (1932) by Jose Clemente Orozco

American Civilization - The Gods of the Modern World - Jose Clemente Orozco - 1932 - 1934

Artwork Information

TitleAmerican Civilization - The Gods of the Modern World
ArtistJose Clemente Orozco
Date1932 - 1934
Art MovementMuralism
Current LocationBaker-Berry Library (Dartmouth College), Hanover, NH, US
Location Created Hanover, United States

About American Civilization - The Gods of the Modern World

The artwork titled “American Civilization – The Gods of the Modern World,” was created by the artist Jose Clemente Orozco between 1932 and 1934. This symbolic painting is executed in fresco and is part of the larger series known as “The Epic of American Civilization,” which can be found at the Baker-Berry Library at Dartmouth College, located in Hanover, NH, United States. The medium, fresco, was a popular choice during the Muralism art movement to which Orozco’s work belongs.

The artwork engages with profound symbolism, depicting a skeletal figure, shrouded in academic regalia, disseminating books that are engulfed in flames. Central to the composition is the skeleton, donning a graduation cap, which is actively involved in the mechanized production of these same books. The fresco is saturated with motifs and icons representative of knowledge, education, and perhaps the dissemination or influence thereof. The burning books may suggest a critique of how knowledge is produced or valued in the modern age, with the striking palette and energetic composition emphasizing a sense of urgency or crisis. Figures stand in the background donning different professional and academic headgear, underscoring the various roles and hierarchies present within society’s intellectual framework. The stark contrast between the vibrancy of the flames and the gray tones of the mechanical parts and skeletal figures accentuates the tensions inherent in the scene, inviting viewers to reflect on the implications of modernity’s progress and the role of education and knowledge within it.

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