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In this article the Austrian critic Walter Engel reviews the exhibition of works by the painter Andrés de Santa María held at the Galerías de Arte in Bogotá. Engel begins his article by mentioning that the Colombian artist died in Brussels, Belgium, on April 29, 1945. Engel admits that Santa María was not very well known in his own country, and mentions a monograph about him written by the Belgian André de Ridder. In Engel’s opinion, Santa María “was the most important Colombian painter in the first third of our century.” He refers to the artist as a “mystical painter,” and compares his painting to the work of the Impressionists, whose influence he believed Santa María transcended. The article ends by charting the periods of the artist’s work.


Apparently, this brief article about the Colombian artist Andrés de Santa María (1860–1945) was the first to be published in Colombia after his death in 1945. For the first time, he was recognized here as the most important Colombian painter of the early twentieth century. 


In the first half of the twentieth century several artists?Miguel Díaz Vargas (1886–1956) for example?had recognized Santa María’s importance and his influence on Colombian art of that period. But, in spite of their efforts, his work remained virtually unknown to the market and to historians until 1971, when a retrospective of his work was organized by the Museum of Modern Art in Bogotá.  


Other than the monograph about Santa María by the Belgian André de Ridder (1868–1921) that was published in 1937, and Engle’s article, very little has been written about the artist, mostly newspaper and magazine articles. It was not until the 1970s that he was recognized as the “forerunner” of modern art in Colombia in modernist historiography and by critics, including Eugenio Barney Cabrera, Marta Traba, Germán Rubiano Caballero, and Eduardo Serrano, among others.  


Walter Engel (1908–2005) was a Viennese historian and art critic who settled in Colombia in 1938 after the Nazi annexation of Austria. He worked for the Revista de las Indias [Indies Magazine] from 1941 to 1951, cofounded the magazine Plástica [Visual Arts] (1957), and was a critic at El Tiempo and El Espectador, the largest daily newspapers in Colombia. He lived in Colombia for about thirty years, and then in 1969, he and his family moved to Toronto, Canada, where he settled and opened a gallery.

Taller Historia Crítica del Arte (U.N.): Halim Badawi
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Courtesy of the Engel/ Marks Families, Ontario, Canada