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    Los frescos
    El Tiempo (Bogotá, Colombia). -- Ene. 9, 1933
    Newspaper article – Reviews
    El Tiempo (Bogotá, Colombia). “Los frescos.” January 9, 1939.
    Capitolio Nacional (Bogotá, Colombia); Gómez Jaramillo, Ignacio, 1910-1970

This anonymous article published in the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo reports the decision of the Bogotá City Council to “condemn” the frescos by Ignacio Gómez Jaramillo in the Colombian Capitol. The column asserts that, while the controversial paintings may well be masterpieces of “a new sensibility,” they are not appropriate for a neoclassical building. Furthermore, the article states, according to the criteria of popular taste, these works are “grotesque and absurd.” The article asserts that the paintings had not been well received by the general public. The conception of these frescos was, the article states, “too revolutionary” and as such out of place in the setting of the Capitol.


The Bogotá City Council’s request for the removal of the murals Colombian artist Ignacio Gómez Jaramillo (1910–1970) had painted in the Colombian Capitol gave rise to the controversy discussed in this document. 


The seemingly restrained tone of this commentary on the editorial page of the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo aptly manifests the conservative spirit of a time resistant to cultural change, a spirit against which young painters of the day struggled. The document must be read in the context of the political opposition to the liberal administration of Alfonso López Pumarejo (in power from 1934–38 and from 1942–45), which indirectly affected muralism in Colombia and worked against the vision of monumental work put forth by Pedro Nel Gómez (1899–1984), the most prolific fresco painter of the period.  


The argument of the article in the conservative Colombian newspaper El Siglo in favor of the removal of the murals from the Capitol revolved around Gómez Jaramillo’s conception of the human figure, one that, despite objections, he would continue to uphold over the years. Early into the controversy, the newspaper El Tiempo defended the frescos, pointing out the virtues of their use of color and composition. Later, however, circumstances led the newspaper to change its position and attack the works.  


What promised to be a heroic period in mural painting in Colombia ended in a complete lack of critical vigor. It is striking that the opinion of journalists and political leaders prevailed in this debate. With the exception of poet Darío Samper (1909–1984) and painter Luis Alberto Acuña (1904–1984), no other important intellectual took an interest in explaining or defending Gómez Jaramillo’s murals.

Alvaro Medina
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Courtesy of Casa Editorial El Tiempo, Bogotá, Colombia