La Calavera Catrina
José Guadalupe Posada produced illustrations for many different purposes including: children's stories, plays, play bills, instructional books, songbooks, histories, almanacs, card games, game boards, recipes, love letters, commercial advertisements, business letters and religious publications. Most of his illustrations were in black and white but some, probably fewer than 200 were in color.
Posada was an artist for hire and accordingly is known to have produced illustrations specifically to order. Art historian Helia Bonilla, during her research discovered the records of a lawsuit filed by Posada against a creditor for whom he made a political cartoon. The records gave a description of what was ordered, how much was paid and ultimately the cartoon itself. Clearly Posada showed artistic license but it was clear, at least in this instance that Posada produced what was ordered.
Sometimes Posada would produce images using photographs of current events or people to illustrate a particular story. This may have been done to save the cost of sending a photographer into the field but also it allowed Posada to emphasize certain points of a story’s illustration. The versatility and quality of his illustrations are just two elements that helped earn him his reputation as a great artist.
Arsacio Vanegas Arroyo estimated that over the roughly forty-five years of Posada’s career that he may have made 20,000 images (although this author estimates less than 1,000 images show Posada’s signature, see below).