‘Epic’ Formally Recognized as National Historic Landmark


The Manton Foundation Annual Orozco Lecture at Dartmouth will have a special feature this year, as the plaque identifying the Orozco Murals as a national historic landmark will be unveiled following the April 11 lecture.

A panel from José Clemente Orozco’s “The Epic of American Civilization.” (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)


The Epic of American Civilization, considered one of Dartmouth’s greatest treasures, was created by renowned Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco between 1932 and 1934, when he was an artist-in-residence at Dartmouth. The murals were designated a national historic landmark in March 2013.

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Barbara Mundy, an associate professor of art history at Fordham University, will deliver the Manton lecture, “Orozco and the Aztecs in The Epic of American Civilization,” at 4 p.m. on Friday in the Hood Museum of Art Auditorium. A specialist in pre-Columbian and colonial Latin America, Mundy will discuss Orozco’s engagement with the artistic and literary legacy of the Aztecs in his depiction of the golden age of pre-Columbian Mexico.

Following the lecture, the national historic landmark plaque will be unveiled in a ceremony that begins at 5:15 p.m. in the Orozco Room in Baker-Berry Library’s ground-level reserve reading room. Michael Taylor, director of the Hood Museum of Art, and Dean of Libraries and Librarian of the College Jeffrey Horrell will speak, along with Lindsay Whaley, Dartmouth’s interim vice provost and associate provost for international initiatives. Rick Kendall, superintendent of Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, N.H., will discuss the significance of national landmark designation. The lecture and reception are free and open to the public.

A reception will follow upstairs in the library’s main hall. During the reception, assistant curator for special projects Sarah Powers will be demonstrating Dartmouth Digital Orozco, the Hood Museum’s forthcoming website. This website will allow visitors and an online worldwide audience to explore Orozco’s monumental mural alongside preparatory drawings and documents on its making. Dartmouth Digital Orozco, which was developed in collaboration with the Neukom Institute for Computational Science, will launch later this spring.

When the murals were designated as a national historic landmark last year, Taylor said the Orozco work at Dartmouth is “one of the finest examples of Mexican muralism in the United States and arguably the artist’s greatest work. Commissioning Orozco to paint this mural in Baker Library in the early 1930s represents a daring moment in Dartmouth’s history and today’s decision to designate The Epic of American Civilization as a national historic landmark will preserve this masterpiece of modern art for generations to come.”

See slideshow on Dartmouth’s flickr site.

Bonnie Barber