José Clemente Orozco (Mexican 1883-1949)
José Clemente Orozco (Mexican 1883-1949)

Submission (also known as Indignidad)

José Clemente Orozco (Mexican 1883-1949)
(also known as Indignidad)
signed 'J.C. Orozco' (lower right)
oil on canvas
14½ x 18 1/8 in. (36.8 x 46 cm.)
Painted circa 1946.
Acquired from the artist.
Mr. Edward Lipsett collection, Beverly Hills.
Acquired from the above.
Private collection, Tucson.
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 7 January 1963- 4 April 1967.

Lot Essay

We are grateful to Mr. Clemente Orozco for his assistance confirming the authenticity of this work.

Orozco was born in Zapotlán, Jalisco, to a middle class family. In 1890 they relocated to Mexico City, where he took life drawing classes in the evening at the San Carlos Academy while still in high school. After graduation his father enrolled him at a technical college, where he took classes in agronomy, agriculture and architectural drafting. It was during this time he suffered an accident while playing with gun powder; he lost his left hand, suffered permanent hearing loss and severely damaged his eyesight. In 1907 he returned to the San Carlos Academy, where he received rigorous training in anatomy, perspective and composition. During the Mexican Revolution Orozco was an illustrator for the Batallones Rojos of the anarcho-syndicalist Casa del Obrero Mundial (1914-15); and many of his later works reflect the carnage he witnessed at this time. In the early 1920s, together with Rivera and Siqueiros, he was one of a dozen artists invited to paint murals in public buildings by minister of education Vasconcelos. Thus, the Mexican Mural Renaissance was born and Orozco, together with Rivera and Siqueiros became known as Los tres grandes. His style evolved from a dramatic and tenebristic neo-classicism in the 1920s, to an audacious and painterly expressionism from the mid-1930s until his death in 1949. Unlike Rivera and Siqueiros, who were ideologically grounded in versions of Marxism, Orozco's political background was in anarcho-syndicalism. Over time, as he saw the dismantling of the anarchist movement and the deepening of corruption in the modern Mexican state, it can be argued that he became divested of the utopic element in his initial politics, while maintaining its vitriolic, critical vision.

During the years 1945 to 1947, Orozco had ceased working on his mural cycle on the apocalypse at the Templo de Jesús el Nazareno, and had not yet begun work at the Escuela Nacional de Maestros. At this time he produced a handful of easel paintings of modest size, in oil and tempera on either canvas or Masonite. Their subjects are depictions of tyrants being paid homage to by lackeys and followers. Works such as Pomada y perfume, El tirano and Submission are part of this cycle. This painting presents a standing general with cap, moustache and sword, receiving five submissive figures that bend and kneel to kiss his boot. The background consists of a number of arches barely insinuated with lines of orange, black and red. An odd figure in green stands to the side, while a barely sketched silhouette in red is behind the general. Throughout the work, the drawing is loose and vigorous, manifesting an expressive freedom, typical of his paintings from the late 1940s. The scene is farcical, presenting a court of grotesqueries under the submission of an arrogant and savage tyrant. In this work Orozco was undoubtedly reflecting the dictators that had ruled Europe under fascism, but he was also turning the mirror on the "banana republics" of Latin America with its abundance of caudillos and military dictators.

The harsh, expressionistic quality of this painting (and others in the cycle) debunks any notion of Orozco as simply a social realist; he is a moralist expressionist in the same category as Max Beckmann, George Grosz and Oskar Kokoschka.

Alejandro Anreus, Ph.D., art historian

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