Isidoro Ocampo (Biographical details)
Isidoro Ocampo (printmaker; Mexican; Male; 1910 - 1983)
Also known as
Text from Dawn Adès and Alison McClean, 'Revolution on Paper, Mexican Prints 1910-1960', with the assistance of Laura Campbell, BMP, 2009.
Isidoro Ocampo was born in Veracruz on the Gulf Coast of Mexico. His early years were spent in the company of his father, a lighthouse keeper. At the age of five he went to Mexico City to begin his primary education. Later his father sent him to study commerce, but he rebelled and instead trained as an artist. Ocampo became one of the major printmakers in Mexico during the first half of the twentieth century; his prints have been compared with those of David Alfaro Siqueiros.
At the age of eighteen Ocampo enrolled at the Mexico City's Academy of San Carlos where he attended night school and trained at the Escuela de Artes del Libro (Book Arts Workshop) with the printmakers Francisco Díaz de León (1887-1975) and Carlos Alvarado Lang (1905-1961). Here, around 1929, Ocampo learnt lithography from Emilio Amero. From 1930 to 1934 he produced lithographs, engravings, etchings and woodcuts; in 1932 he also started to paint, but printmaking remained his principal activity.
After completing his education at the Academy of San Carlos, Ocampo worked as an illustrator at Imprenta y Editorial Cultura, an important state-run publishing house in Mexico City. During his seven years here he produced twenty-eight books.
In 1936 Ocampo joined the LEAR, where he collaborated with other printmakers on an adult literacy project. He also became a member of the TGP, yet unlike many of his colleagues he did not openly support communism through his work. At the TGP he made prints for posters and other items for public dissemination. He left the TGP in 1940 when a dispute over the pricing of prints caused a schism in the collective. He briefly rejoined the group but left finally in 1944. In spite of this break, the collective included his prints in their 1946 publication 'Mexican People' (cat. 119). During his life he exhibited work in Mexico, Europe, North and South America, and contributed to all three shows that the TGP organized in the United States. He also taught in the Escuela de Bellas Artes and the Academy of San Carlos.
A major theme running throughout Ocampo's prints was poverty, but he also tackled issues of international concern such as Fascism. He observed urban life in Mexico and was one of few printmakers to illustrate workers at leisure.
Mexican Prints. From the Reba and Dave Williams Collection (Cm 5 14)
John Ittmann, 'Mexico and Modern Printmaking: A Revolution in the Graphic Arts, 1920-1950', New Haven and London, 2006, pp.200-203