Colorful and powerful murals grace the walls of many of Guadalajara's public buildings. Beyond functioning as decoration, these murals depict of the founding of modern Mexican identity. In 1920, at the conclusion of the Mexican Revolution, Mexico was in upheaval. Jose Vasconcelos, then Secretary of Education, commissioned several artists to paint murals in various locations in Mexico City and throughout the country with the goal of forging a new national cultural identity. The paintings offered the Mexican people a vision of their history and suggested new possibilities for the future.
Gerard Murillo "Dr. Atl", a Mexican painter and writer from Guadalajara, is considered by many to be the founder of Mexican muralism. He acted as a mentor to many major artists, including Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siquieros. These painters, sometimes referred to as "the big three", are the most important artists in the Mexican mural movement. They collaborated, but each had distinct approaches to politics and their art.
Orozco was from Jalisco. You can admire his murals in several locations in Guadalajara, including the Hospicio Cabañas, the Government Palace and the University of Guadalajara, where you can also see murals by Siqueiros, along with Amado de la Cueva, in the University's Biblioteca Octavio Paz.
The interior walls of the Hospicio Cabañas contain some of Orozco's best work. Between 1937 and 1939 Orozco painted 57 frescoes covering the arched panels and semi-circular ceiling vaults of the building's main chapel. These murals explore the struggle between indigenous and European factions within modern-day Mexico. Two hundred feet above the floor at the center of the nave, a man wreathed in flames ascends into the cupola. This is "Man of Fire," Orozco's masterpiece. An artistic stroll around central Guadalajara will explain why it has been called the "Florence of Mexico".