This majestic precinct was constructed supported by the benefactor vision of the Bishop Don Juan Ruiz de Cabañas y Crespo. It was built in 1805; it was opened in 1810 and finished in full in 1846. Its neoclassic style design was made by the Architect Manuel Tolsá. It was used as a ¨Mercy House¨ from the beginning and until 1980, sheltering homeless children. From 1938 to 1939 the famous painter José Clemente Orozco created some of his best murals (52) in its main building, specifically the one titled ¨Prometheus in Flames¨ on the dome of the chapel. There are 22 patios inside with temporary exibits. Your GDLtour Guide would be happy to describe the murals for you.
The Hospicio Cabañas biulding is a work of architecture which distinguishes the city of Guadalajara with its neoclassic beauty. Nowadays, this location is a cultural institute dedicated to propagating the arts and houses the murals painted by the muralist Jose Clemente Orozco. These attrubutes, among others, gave reason to the declaration of the old Cabañas Orphanage as World Heritage on December 1997.
The history of the Cabañas Cultural Institute begins at colonial times, with the arrival of Bishop Don Juan Cruz Ruiz de Cabañas y Crespo to Guadalajara. The first project of the new Bishop was a shelter for orphans, elders, and destitute people. The Bishop wanted this home to also serve as a workshop where the children learned a trade that offered them a better future.
Once the project was accepted, Bishop Cabañas chose one of the best architects and sculptors of the time, Manuel Tolsá, to design the building. The construction began in 1805 and five years later, in 1810, what was then called ¨The House of Mercy¨ opened its doors to the first orphans and destitutes.
Mexico´s independence war erupted that year, and the House of Mercy could not escape the turmoils of war. For many years the House of Mercy lodged hundreds of soldiers, horses and arms even after independence war ended.
Eventually the community regained control of the orphanage and rescued it from the abandonment, enabling it to resume its humanitarian mission once again in the year 1829. In 1845 the original cunstruction project was finally finished and from that moment on the building was named Hospicio Cabañas.
However, the Hospicio continued being affected by political upheavals, such as the liberal Reforma war in 1854 and the Mexican Revolution in 1910.
In 1980 the children in the Hospicio were transferred to new and more comfortable facilities. The building ended its cycle as an orphanage to initiate a new destiny: In 1983 this building became a museum and a center for the arts and culture.
This extraordinary building of rigorous symmetry possesses 23 patios and 2 chapels, its long corridors lead pleasantly to the patios and gardens that provide pure air and clear light to the halls. Those rooms that once were dormitories now have been turned into exhibition halls for National and International modern and contemporary art.
The Hand of the Painter
The Cabañas Cultural Center preserves exhibits and continues research regarding the work of José Clemente Orozco. In addition to the murals, a total of 340 works of the artist are exhibited in rotating order. Most of the collection is made up of scale drawings for the murals. In these, Orozco studied proportion and the balance of light and color in his compositions.
This timeless building, permeated with history and personality, holds between its stone walls the cultural and artistic heritage that gives identity to the people of Jalisco.
In 1937 the government of Jalisco invited José Clemente Orozco to paint the old chapel, not knowing that this project would later be considered his greatest and most significant work. The painter, also a Jalisco native, belonged to the group of post-revolutionary artists who, convinced that art had to be shared by people of all social levels, dedicated themselves to the creation of monumental works of art, always in public places.
For two years, Orozco devoted with all intensity to the decoration of the chapel, painting 57 murals. The artist expressed dramatic human attitudes related to the Spanish Conquest, the colonization and modern life, a range from historical themes to the deepest and most universal aspects of the human being.
In these murals Orozco portrayed indigenous scenes of the pre-Hispanic life of Mexico. He referred to the imposition of spiritual values and aspects of its history and most typical characteristics of Guadalajara.
Nevertheless, the most outstanding work of the project is ¨The Man in Flames¨ The mural is located in the main dome of the chapel. For some people this mural represents the four elements of nature: fire, air earth and water. For other critics, it suggests the myth of the Phoenix, which succumbs only to be born again, the eternal flow of history in which the painter believed.
The Man in Flames was designed to be looked from a distance of 27 meters, therefore its accomplishment was extremely complicated. Orozco paints a figure on a curved surface to be perceived as being straight and erect, and it seems to rise upwards when looked from below. The artist considered not only the ranges of distances, but also the spectator within the same space. This demonstrates Orozco´s deep knowledge of perspective, optics and mathematics and most importantly, his intuitive sense of space. Orozco´s murals are a faithful expression of his philosophy and his brave and revolutionary personality.