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“El americanismo de los años 40 y la nueva vanguardia colombiana” [The Americanism of the 1940s and the New Colombian Avant-Garde], an essay by the historian Álvaro Medina, published in 1978, discusses the artistic languages inspired by the School of Paris that were introduced into Latin America only to be displaced by the powerful influence of Mexican muralism during the early twentieth century. In the late 1930s, Colombian artists began moving away from Mexican muralism, whose major promoters had been the poet Jorge Gaitán Durán, and his main followers: Pedro Nel Gómez, Ignacio Gómez Jaramillo, and Carlos Correa. In his essay, Medina identifies two generations of Colombian mural painters: the first, led by Alipio Jaramillo, was inspired by Mexican muralism; the second (in the 1950s) included artists working in abstraction, such as Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar, Alejandro Obregón, and others. According to Medina, this affiliation with some of the languages of the School of Paris did not necessarily mean that our artists had abandoned their commitment to social themes.


This brief essay published in 1978 along with other articles by the same author, stimulated renewed interest in and historical revision of Colombian art from the 1920s through the 1940s, the complex artistic contribution of which had been diminished and marginalized (in the 1950s and 1960s) mainly as a result of the negative views generated by the criticism that Marta Traba (1923–1983) directed at several artists of the period.


There is no doubt that in the 1970s, historians were unfettered by many of the prejudices concerning painters of the early twentieth century, and began a process of scientific revision and historic reevaluation of forgotten artists. The exhibition of works by Andrés de Santa María (1860–1945) at the Museo de Arte Moderno [Museum of Modern Art] in Bogotá in 1971 stimulated interest in nineteenth-century artists, such as Roberto Páramo (1859–1939), Fídolo Alfonso González Camargo (1883–1941), and Santa María. This renewed interest led to the publication of extensive monographs, a trend that peaked in the 1990s. The art historian Álvaro Medina (b. 1942), who had also encouraged the study of these earlier artists, prompted a reevaluation of Colombian art from the 1930s through the 1950s.


Though his best-known book Procesos del arte en Colombia [Art Processes in Colombia] (see “Introducción: para entrar en combate” [Introduction: Going into Battle] by Álvaro Medina, doc. no. 1082796) does not specifically refer to the 1930s and 1940s, this essay and his two later books El arte colombiano de los años veinte y treinta [Colombian Art in the 1920s and 1930s] (Bogotá: Colcultura-Tercer Mundo Editores, 1995) and Arte y violencia en Colombia desde 1948 [Art and Violence in Colombia since 1948] (Bogotá: Museo de Arte Moderno, 1999) are a chronological and thematic continuation of the first book mentioned above.


Other authors who wrote at great length about the arrival of the first truly modern languages in Colombia were the Uruguayan researcher Ivonne Pini in her book En busca de lo propio: inicios de la modernidad en el arte de Cuba, México, Uruguay y Colombia 1920–1930 [In Search of Our Own Voice: First Stirrings of Modernism in the Art of Cuba, Mexico, Uruguay, and Colombia 1920–1930] (see “Presentación” [Introduction] by Ivonne Pini, doc. no. 1093353), and the art historian Carmen María Jaramillo.

Taller Historia Crítica del Arte (U.N.): Halim Badawi
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
© Álvaro Medina, Bogotá, Colombia