Jose Guadalupe Posada’s iconic lithograph, La Calavera Catrina (“The Elegant Skull”), is considered to be one of the most important cultural icons in Mexican art. The image depicts a female skeleton dressed in a large hat which was believed to have been unveiled in 1912, shortly before Posada’s death. This powerful message carries strong influence beyond Mexico and has come to represent its impact on culture, identity, and collective memory.
In 1913, Don published United States while O plaster sculptures based on the work that referenced modern day newspapers. These sculptures depicted contemporary newspapers as skeleton cyclists with brandishing scythes, which was challenging the visual order of popular political figures during the Porfiriato regime. It also demonstrated Postradass persistent critique towards socio-economic inequalities that were creeping for Porfirian nationalism.
More recently artists have used this Day of Dead theme as inspiration for their artwork since it easily resonates with an audience – from Sigmar Polke’s 1981 Tischruecken (Seance), to Diego Rivera crafted monumental mural paintings along nationalist elements of history and national identity from 1920s and 1930s Mexico. La Calavera Catrina’s symbolism of death has transcended generations with many new interpretations and updates for each generation; making it a truly unique art form that combines themes of life, death, tradition and modernity through artistic expression.