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The article “El expresionismo como síntoma de pereza e inhabilidad en el arte” [Expressionism as a Symptom of Laziness and Inability in Art] expresses the opinion held in traditional political circles in Colombia concerning avant-garde modern art, which the article refers to as across-the-board Expressionism. The author of this statement, the conservative Colombian politician Laureano Gómez, speaks highly of the art of classical Greece and the Renaissance, and dismisses Byzantine art as decadent. He also disparages Diego Rivera’s murals as a way to attack—though without mentioning his name—the Colombian painter Pedro Nel Gómez for his murals at the new city hall in Medellín. According to Laureano Gómez, those murals were an expression of inability and laziness.


The Colombian politician Laureano Gómez (1889–1965) had published critical art reviews on the occasion of the exhibition organized in 1910 to celebrate the centenary of Colombian independence. He was also the most charismatic leader of the Colombian Conservative Party in the entire twentieth century. This document is a fine example of the fierce criticism aimed at muralists, and is a reliable account of the ideological struggle to cancel the reform projects launched during the liberal presidency of Alfonso López Pumarejo (1886–1959). Gómez took office as president in 1950 when political violence was decimating the liberal opposition and the Liberal Party boycotted the elections. He suffered a heart attack that forced him to resign so his first term lasted just one year (1950–51). But he continued to pull strings from his home and returned to the presidency on June 13, 1953, only to be overthrown that very day by a military coup.  


When the political pendulum swung in Colombia in 1930, and power was transferred from the Conservative Party to the Liberal Party, conservative politicians were bitterly opposed to spending state money, through the Department of Education, on new aesthetic movements. This explains the situation in the arts; the opposition was outraged when the Colombian painter Pedro Nel Gómez (1899–1984) produced the eleven murals for the Medellín City Hall in 1937, and when Ignacio Gómez Jaramillo (1910–1970) painted the two murals for the national capitol in 1938.

Alvaro Medina
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Reproduced with permission of Enrique Gómez Hurtado, La Unidad, Bogotá, Colombia