Posada was a prolific printmaker and illustrator, with a powerful
body of work that belied the relatively quiet life he led. He was born
to German Posada and Petra Aguilar, both poor and of peasant origin,
in Aguascalientes, Mexico, in 1852. He began to show artistic promise
at a very young age, copying religious cards or prints in bibles to
help his brother Cirilo, a schoolteacher, with his youngest students.
Though he attended a drawing academy directed by Antonio Varela, he
did not stay long, instead preferring to teach himself what he could
before working at the lithography shop of Trinidad Pedrozo. Here, he
did illustrations for the newspaper El Jicote Ilustrado, earning his
first recognition as an artist by the public.
In 1873, Posada
married Maria de Jesus Vela, and moved to Mexico City following a
great flood that demolished much of Leon, where he made his living
as an illustrator for a local newspaper. In Mexico City he
continued his work for news publications; by 1890, he was working
as a permanent staff member of the Antonio Vanegas Publishing
House, a mutually rewarding partnership that lasted until his
death. These broadsides and newspapers became a voice for the
people, many of whom could not read or write, and explained the
circumstances of political upheaval, local incidents, and
everyday-people's stories in a single image. These works of art
became known for their succinct and elegant portrayal of Mexican
daily life and political happenings, and played a major part in the
revival of the country's art. Posada is credited with greatly
influencing budding artists Orozco and Rivera, both young students
at the time.
Despite his humble
yet rebellious nature and the ever-increasing popularity of his
work, Posada's financial success was limited. He never became
wealthy, and he drank excessively; eventually he succumbed to
enteritis, alone and impoverished, in January of 1913.