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The image above is from the central panel from the last section of José Clemente Orozco's mural, the Epic of American Civilization, depicting Modern Industrial Man, or Ideal Modern Culture. This panel shows a reclining figure of mixed ancestry, who is free to pursue his own education and interests. Orozco intended this figure to symbolically resolve the competing but also complementary natures of North American & Latin American culture, both indigenous and European or African.
Orozco was first invited to visit Dartmouth in March, 1932, to study wall spaces in Carpenter Hall, where he could demonstrate his fresco technique by painting a mural, Man Released from the Mechanistic to the Creative Life. He chose the corridor connecting connecting Carpenter Hall to Baker Library, for his small study, and on March 20, just before he left campus, he asked Professor Charles Lathrop if he could attend a lecture in Dartmouth Hall. As they walked to the lecture, they passed through the recently completed Reserve Reading Room of Baker Library. Professor Lathrop noted that as Orozco saw the bare plaster walls, he stopped and said, "These are the walls for my best mural, the Epic of American Civilization."1
As Professor Lathrop and his colleagues realized the importance of what Orozco proposed, they asked him for more detail on his theme, and he replied, "The American continental races are now becoming aware of their own personality, as it emerges from two cultural currents - the indigenous and the European."2
Orozco felt that the myth of Quetzalcoatl, embraced aspects of North and South America, as well as indigenous and European cultures, and authentically depicted the creation of a new world culture and civilization in the Americas. He wrote in his introduction to The Orozco Frescoes at Dartmouth, "...the important point regarding the frescoes of Baker Library is...the fact that it is an AMERICAN idea developed into American forms, American feeling, and as a consequence, into American style."3
Tours of the mural are provided free of charge by the Hood Museum. Both adult and school tours tours can be arranged by contacting the Hood Tour Coordinator at least one month in advance of the tour date requested by e-mail the Hood Museum or phone (603) 646-1469