OROZCO: Man of Fire

American Masters LogoNarrated by Anjelica Huston
Broadcast on PBS American Masters

In OROZCO: Man of Fire, Directors Laurie Coyle and Rick Tejada-Flores create a visually arresting and whimsical documentary portrait of Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949), whose dramatic life, iconoclastic personality and dynamic painting changed the way we see art and politics.

The artist’s story is played out against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution, the Great Depression and both World Wars. Orozco survived the loss of his left hand and the destruction of two thirds of his early work by U.S. border agents. He and his colleagues Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros launched the Mexican mural movement that captured the imagination of Depression era America. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt put American artists to work on public walls during the 1930s, he looked to the Mexican mural renaissance as a model.

Orozco had a far-reaching influence on subsequent generations of American artists, including such important figures as Thomas Hart Benton, Jackson Pollock, Jacob Lawrence and the Chicano mural movement.

Although Orozco was an exceptional figure, his travels back and forth across the U.S.-Mexico border are emblematic of the experiences of millions of Mexican migrants and immigrants who come seeking a better life in the United States. His personal convictions and tenacity in the face of daunting obstacles make him a compelling figure with universal appeal.

The documentary weaves a rich tapestry of images and sound, evoking Orozco’s artistic style, while opening a window onto the artist’s inner life, passions and convictions.


Complete List of Mural Works

Below is a list of murals by José Clemente Orozco, with the year and location.  

Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, Mexico City, Mexico    

Revolutionary Trinity
The Rich Feast while the Workers Fight

Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso    

The Trench
Destruction of the Old Order
Cortez and Malinche
The Franciscan and the Indian
The Mother’s Farewell    
The Family

Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso

Reactionary Forces
Social Waste
The Final Judgment
The Cross and the Serpent

The House of Tiles, Mexico City    


Center for Workers’ Education, Orizaba, Mexico    

Social Revolution    

Pomona College, Claremont, California  


New School for Social Research, New York City 

Struggle in the Orient    
Science, Labor and Art    
Homecoming of the Worker    
Table of Brotherhood    


Baker Library, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire    

The Epic of American Civilization (pre-Cortesian): The Arrival of Quetzalcoatl    
Ancient Human Sacrifice    
The Departure of Quetzalcoatl    
The Epic of American Civilization (post-Cortesian): Cortez and the Cross    
Latin America
Gods of the Modern World
Modern Human Sacrifice
Modern Migration of the Spirit    

Palace of Fine Arts, Mexico City


University of Guadalajara, Mexico         

Creative Man    

University of Guadalajara    

False Science and the Human Dilemma     

Governor’s Palace, Guadalajara, Mexico    

Father Hidalgo   
The Carnival of the Ideologies    
Phantasms of Religion in Alliance with the Military    

Hospicio Cabañas, Guadalajara, Mexico 

Man of Fire    
The Mechanical Horse    
Cortez and the Subjugation of the Indians
The Wheel    
The Two Headed Horse    

Gabino Ortiz Library, Jiquilpan, Mexico    

Allegory of Mexico    
Museum of Modern Art, New York City
Dive Bomber and Tank- six panels    

Supreme Court of Justice, Mexico City    

Inhuman Labor    
Proletarian Struggle

Church of Jesus of Nazareth, Mexico City    


Private collections

Fiesta of the Instruments- moveable mural
The Good Life- moveable mural

Open-air Theater of the National Teacher’s School, Mexico City

National Allegory    

National History Museum, Mexico City

Juarez, the Church and the Imperialists

Chamber of Deputies, Legislative Assemble of Jalisco, Guadalajara    

Hidalgo and the Abolition of Slavery    

Resources for Further Study and Action


Website of the PBS series American Masters /WNET, the public television broadcaster of OROZCO: Man of Fire.

Official website of OROZCO: Man of Fire provides ordering information about the film, a downloadable PDF version of this viewers guide, and other educational resources.


Photographer Bob Schalkwijk has the world’s most comprehensive photo archive of Mexican murals, including all of Orozco’s murals in Mexico.

Website of the Hood Museum at Dartmouth College provides information about Orozco’s murals at Dartmouth and a downloadable brochure and guide to the murals.

The Getty Research Center Arts has on-line information about Orozco’s art and other Mexican murals.

http://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/~farid/orozco/ A computer model offering a 3-D virtual tour of Orozco’s murals at Dartmouth College, the New School, and Pomona College.

http://www.pomona.edu/museum/collections/prometheus The Pomona College website source for information about Prometheus, Orozco’s first mural in the United States.


http://www.wpamurals.com/research.htm A good “clearinghouse” site of links to information about New Deal Murals.

http://members.aol.com/FVOC/ An archive of art reviews by Francis V. O’Connor Ph.D., including information about the 1930s WPA Federal Art Project.

http://cemaweb.library.ucsb.edu/cema_index.html UC Santa Barbara’s California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives maintains an on-line digital archive and guide to Chicano Art.


http://www.cpag.net The Chicago Public Art Group creates public artwork, trains artists in mural painting, and teaches children creative skills. Download their comprehensive guide to the mural-making process at http://www.cpag.net/guide/index.htm.

http://www.sparcmurals.org The Social and Public Art Resource Center is a Los Angeles community arts organization that creates public art projects, maintains a digital mural lab and archives and provides educational programs.

http://www.precitaeyes.org Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center is a San Francisco community arts organization that creates mural projects and offers mural painting and art classes to children, youth and adults.

http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org The Kennedy Center provides educational materials that meet the National Standards For Arts Education, including the lesson plan, Five Artists of the Mexican Revolution.


Becker, Heather. Art for the People: The Rediscovery and Preservation of Progressive and WPA-Era Murals in the Chicago Public Schools, 1904-1943. Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2002

Brenner, AnitaThe Wind that Swept Mexico: The History of the Mexican Revolution 1910-1942. University of Texas Press, Austin, 1985

Chalfant, Henry, and Jim Prigoff. Walls of Heritage, Walls of Pride: The History of African American Murals in the United States. Pomegranate Press, Beverly Hills, 2000

Charlot, JeanAn Artist on Art, Collected Essays of Jean Charlot. The University Press of Hawaii, 1972

Charlot, JeanThe Mexican Mural Renaissance.  Hacker Art Books, New York, 1962

Cockroft, Eva Sperling and Holly Barnet-Sanchez. Signs from the Heart: California Chicano Murals. SPARC/University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1990

Cockroft, Eva, John Weber and Jim Cockroft, Toward a People’s Art, The Contemporary Mural Movement. E.P. Dutton And Co., New York, 1977

Delpar, HelenThe Enormous Vogue of Things Mexican.  University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa and London, 1992

Frank, PatrickPosada’s Broadsheets-Mexican Popular Imagery 1890-1910. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1998

Glusker, Susannah JoelAnita Brenner-A Mind of Her Own.  University of Texas Press, Austin, 1998

Helm, MacKinley. Man of Fire: J.C. Orozco, an interpretive memoir.  Greenwood Press, Westport, 1971

Helm, MacKinley.  Mexican Painters. Dover Publications, New York, 1989

Harth, Marjorie, editor. José Clemente Orozco: Prometheus. Pomona College Museum of Art, Claremont, 2001

Hemingway, Andrew. American Artists and the Communist Movement, 1926-1956. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2002

Hood Museum of Art, Renato González Mello and Diane Miliotes, editors.  José Clemente Orozco in the United States, 1927-1934.  WW Norton & Co, New York/London, 2002

Hurlburt, Laurance PThe Mexican Muralists in the United States. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1989

Jacoby, Annice. Street Art San Francisco: Mission Muralismo. Abrams, New York, 2009

LeFalle-Collins, Lizetta and Goldman, Shifra MIn the Spirit of Resistance:African-American Modernists and the Mexican Muralist School.  American Federation of Arts, New York, 1996

Oles, James. South of the Border: Mexico in the American Imagination 1914-1947.  Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London, 1993

Orozco, José Clemente. The Artist in New York, Letters to Jean Charlot and Unpublished Writings (1925-1929).  University of Texas Press, Austin, 1974

Orozco, José Clemente. An Autobiography. Dover Publications, New York, 2001

Orozco Valladares, Clemente. José Clemente Orozco: Graphic Work, University of Texas Press, Austin 2004

Paz, Octavio. Essays on Mexican Art. Harcourt Brace, New York, 1987

Reed, AlmaOrozco.  Oxford University Press, New York, 1956

Reed, AlmaThe Mexican Muralists.  Crown Publishers, New York, 1960

Rochfort, DesmondMexican Muralists.  Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1998

Stein, PhilipSiqueiros, His Life and Works.  International Publishers, New York, 1994


Sun. Nov 11, 2007

2:00 PM


McNay Art Museum,
6000 North New Braunfels, San Antonio TX

Free Screening
In conjunction with Exhibition, “Mexico And Modern Printmaking”

Thurs. Nov 1, 2007

2:15 PM


Museum of Fine Arts Boston,
465 Huntington Ave. Boston, MA

Free Screening

Sun. Oct 28, 2007

2:00 PM


Museum of Fine Arts Boston,
465 Huntington Ave. Boston, MA

Free Screening and Discussion: John Wilson, artist and interviewee,
Laurie Coyle;
Co-sponsor Nat’l Center of Afro-American Artists

Fri. Oct 26, 2007

10:30 AM


Museum of Fine Arts Boston,
465 Huntington Ave. Boston MA

High School Screening & Discussion

John Wilson, artist and interviewee, Laurie Coyle, filmmaker;

Co-sponsored by the Nat’l Center of Afro-American Artists

Fri. Oct 26, 2007, evening

7:30 PM


Loew Auditorium
Hood Museum of Art,
Dartmouth College,
Hanover, New Hampshire

Free Screening, Q & A with Laurie Coyle

Thurs. Oct 18 & Fri. Oct 19, 2007

Thurs. Oct 18, 2:45 PM
Fri. Oct 19, 5:45 PM


Remis Auditorium
Museum of Fine Arts Boston,
465 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA

Free Screening

Mon. Oct 1, 2007

6:30 PM

Rosenberg Library, Rm 304
City College of San Francisco
50 Phelan Ave,
San Francisco CA

Free Screening and Discussion with Laurie Coyle, Professor Greg Landau

Sat. Sept 29, 2007

2:00 PM


Koret Auditorium
The de Young Museum,
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive,
San Francisco CA

Special Tribute to Elizabeth Catlett

Screening and Panel with Elizabeth Catlett, Lizzetta Lefalle-Collins, Dewey Crumpler, Rupert Garcia, Favianna Rodriguez

Fri. Sept 28, 2007

7:00 PM


Koret Auditorium
The de Young Museum,
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive,
San Francisco

Free Screening and Discussion

Thurs. Sept 27, 2007

6:00 PM


Art Institute of Chicago, Fullerton Hall
111 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago

Free Screening

LaurieCoyle, Diane Miliotes, National Museum of Mexican Art

Thurs. Sept 27, 2007

9:30 AM- 3:30 PM


Art Institute of Chicago, Education Department
111 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago IL

Teacher Workshop

Diane Miliotes, Tanya Brown-Merriman, Laurie Coyle

Weds, Sept 19, 2007 - RIVERA IN AMERICA

PBS national primetime series
Encore Presentation

Rivera in America

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19 at 10 PM (check local listings)

For more information:
www.thirteen.org/pressroom or www.pbs.org/pressroom

Weds, Sept 19, 2007 - OROZCO on PBS

US Broadcast Premiere of OROZCO: Man of Fire

PBS national primetime series premiere

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19 at 9 PM (check local listings)

For more information: www.thirteen.org/pressroom or www.pbs.org/pressroom

Jose Clemente Orozco's Life and Times


The life of Mexican muralist Jose Clemente Orozco (1883-1949) is one of the great, untold stories of modern art—filled with drama, adversity and remarkable achievement.  He survived the loss of his left hand and destruction of his early work by U.S. border agents, and witnessed the carnage of the Mexican Revolution and turmoil of the Great Depression in America. A gifted easel painter, Orozco was first and foremost a public artist whose greatest achievements were murals created not for individual patrons but for the whole society.


Orozco was born in a provincial town in Mexico, but grew up in the hurly-burly world of downtown Mexico City at the turn of the century.  He studied at a classical art academy and learned as well from the printmaker Jose Guadalupe Posada’s vivid art of the street. As a young boy Orozco displayed remarkable talent, but only after he lost his left hand in a tragic accident was he able to devote himself to his true vocation as a painter.

He came of age during the Mexican Revolution in which one million lost their lives. Due to his handicap, he escaped conscription and became a cartoonist, drawing biting social satires for opposition newspapers. Orozco’s first solo exhibition was attacked by the critics, and like many other Mexicans, he fled north, seeking better opportunities.  At the Texas-Mexico border, most of his paintings were seized and burned by customs agents who knew nothing about the modern art movement. Orozco persevered, but was forced to make a living painting cinema posters and plastic dolls.

Back in Mexico in the early 1920s, Orozco was one of the first to paint public murals sponsored by the new revolutionary government. His early murals were vandalized by an angry mob, but he went on to explore the upheaval of the times in a daring series of frescos. He later returned to the United States, where he lived through the great economic “Crash” and lived in California, New York and New Hampshire. Orozco spent ten years in the United States, where he painted four major murals as well as hundreds of easel paintings and graphic works. He challenged stereotypes of Mexican art as folkloric, exotic and social realist, and became a vital member of the New York art scene. During his years in the U.S., Orozco faced episodes of censorship, but transcended cultural and language barriers to become a pioneer of the public arts movement of the 1930s-40s.

When Orozco returned to Mexico, he was a mature artist of international renown. Orozco decorated many of Mexico’s most important public buildings, including Mexico City’s Palacio de Bellas Artes, Suprema Corte de Justicia, Templo de Jesus el Nazareno and the Escuela Normal de los Maestros. In Guadalajara, he painted murals in the Palacio Municipal and Universidad de Guadalajara. At the city’s Hospicio Cabañas, he painted the Man of Fire mural cycle, considered the Sistine Chapel of the Americas. Orozco completed his last fresco less than a month before he died in his sleep of heart failure at the age of 65. In the fifteen years between his return to Mexico in 1934 and his death in 1949, his painting demonstrated a daring formal and thematic progression of historical, allegorical and abstract compositions.


Jose Clemente Orozco and his colleagues Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros revived the monumental fresco painting of the Italian Renaissance, infusing it with modern themes and forms. They became the most famous proponents of a public arts movement that began in the1920s when the newly installed revolutionary government of Mexico began a program of commissioning artists to paint murals in public buildings. Mural painting would be a monument to the Mexican people and form of popular education, a history book for all to see. The images and messages of the murals became key ingredients in the evolving definition of Mexicanidad, Mexican national identity. The heroism of the Mexican Revolution, the spirituality of native cultures and the rejection of foreign domination were themes codified on public walls and integrated into the national consciousness.


The mural movement Orozco, Rivera and Siqueiros launched in Mexico in the 1920s captured the imagination of Depression era America. By the 1930s all three were living and working in the United States. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt put American artists to work on public walls during the 1930s, he looked to the Mexican mural renaissance as a model. The result would be the WPA Arts Program, which put thousands of artists on the government payroll at workers salaries, as in Mexico, and lead to the creation of hundreds of murals around the country.

Orozco played an important part in the broad cultural exchange between the United States and Mexico in those years, influencing such diverse American artists as Thomas Hart Benton, Jackson Pollock, Isamu Noguchi, Jacob Lawrence, Aaron Douglas and Philip Guston.  His modernism bridged the epic style of the “Escuela Mexicana” and post World War II abstract expressionists. During the 1960s-70s, the community mural movement that blossomed in African American and Latino neighborhoods drew inspiration from Orozco’s groundbreaking vision of the role of art in society. Today artists on both sides of the border continue to embrace the innovative and independent spirit of his art.

More resources about Orozco and the Mexican Mural Movement

Orozco at rest

Nov 10, 2006 - International Latino Film Festival SF Bay Area

*OROZCO: Man of Fire* at the 10th Latino International Latino Film Festival SF Bay Area

Fri. Nov 10, 6:00 PM
MACLA: Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana
510 South First Street, San Jose
(408) 998-2783

Tickets available soon on-line at www.latinofilmfestival.org

Oct 12, 2006 - World Premiere

The *OROZCO: Man of Fire* World Premiere will be at the 10th Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival:

Thurs. Oct. 12, 7:50 PM
The Egyptian Theater
5216 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles

Tickets available for purchase on-line at LatinoFilm.org

Oct 7, 11, 2006 - Mill Valley Film Festival

*OROZCO: Man of Fire* at the 29th Mill Valley Film Festival:

Sat. Oct 7, 12:30PM
CinéArts@Sequoia: SEQ
25 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley
Map to Venue=

Wed. Oct 11, 6:30PM
142 Throckmorton Theatre: THR
142 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley
Map to Venue=

Tickets available for purchase on-line at www.mvff.org