"Franciscan and the Indian"



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Lithographs and Printmaking

This is a lithograph by Jose Clemente Orozco, called “The Franciscan and the Indian.” A very compassionate piece by the artist, and a very unique piece.

A copy of this particular lithograph is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art New York. And although Orozco created more prints than either of the other legendary Mexican artists that comprised the “Big Three,” he only created 30 lithographs and 20 etchings in total during his lifetime - so they are quite rare.

Colonization in the Americas

The lithograph itself depicts this Franciscan priest compassionately embracing an indigenous beggar. This kind of theme probably relates to Orozco’s opinion that the colonial powers and the church may have been better for the indigenous, pre-Colombian people than life before they arrived.

Prior to the colonization of the America’s, Orozco feels that the violence perpetrated onto the indigenous people, particularly by the bloodthirsty priests doing the bidding of the gods, was far more traumatic and violent than that of the colonial powers.

This view is in direct contrast to Diego Rivera who strongly believed that pre-conquest, pre-Colombian people lived in a utopian paradise.

Mural at the Chapel of the Hospicio Kabanas

However, there was a mural that Orozco later created at the former Chapel of the Hospicio Kabanas that showed the Colonial powers in a far less flattering light – in fact, it depicts them as extremely brutal to the indigenous people, which gives us (with this piece) this enigmatic ambiguity about the actual meaning of the piece.

Conclusion

As I said earlier – you have this wonderful embracing tenderness of the priest toward the Indigenous beggar. But on the other hand it could also be evocative of the all powerful church showing complete dominance over the people it has conquered. It is difficult to say with complete confidence what Orozco meant to express with this piece.