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This document includes the expert appraisal report of the eleven murals that artist Pedro Nel Gómez painted from 1935 to 1937 at the new Medellín City Hall. The Medellín City Council had commissioned Colombian writers Efe Gómez and Antonio J. Cano to prepare the report. The document’s approach is literary, and it describes at length the themes the painter addressed in these murals.
This is one of the few texts with detailed descriptions of each of the eleven frescos that Colombian artist Pedro Nel Gómez (1899–1984) painted at the new Medellín City Hall (constructed in 1932). Colombian writers Efe Gómez (1873-1938) and Antonio J. Cano were commissioned to write this report by the Medellin City Council. While the report may be wanting on a conceptual level, it does have the merit of providing precise and fundamental information about the topic it addresses. It is indispensable to understanding the motivations of the City Council in commissioning the murals as well as the painter who made them.
In 1935, the Medellin City Council authorized the production of the frescos, stipulating that they address themes “related to work, to the vital power of the state, to local customs and resources, such as mining, coffee, etc., as well as the problems connected to raising the people’s consciousness about collective and political life” (Resolution No. 9, February 15, 1935).
The series of murals by Nel Gómez, which is distributed in several floors of the Medellin City Hall, constituted the most ambitious mural project in Colombia at the time and the largest one in South America. Indeed, the project gave rise to a controversy involving conservative politician Laureano Gómez (1889-1965) who was elected president of Colombia in 1950. [See “El expresionismo como síntoma de pereza e inhabilidad en el arte”, doc. no. 1089142].
Nel Gómez studied in Medellín before traveling to Europe in 1925. While in Florence, Italy, he learned the fresco technique. Upon returning to Colombia in 1930, he became the most important mural artist of the time, with works in Bogota and Cali. His murals, along with those by Ignacio Gómez Jaramillo (1910–1970), were harshly criticized by traditionalists. They were seen as expressions of a modernism that violated the ideological and moral principles on which their society was based.