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This extensive article by Guillermo Valencia Castillo discusses the work of Colombian artist Ricardo Acevedo Bernal. In the introduction, Valencia Castillo addresses the obstacles that had to be overcome before Acevedo Bernal came to be considered the best painter in the country. Valencia Castillo provides an overview of Acevedo Bernal’s life and its connection to his work; he also mentions important artistic events that took place at the time. Valencia Castillo provides a historical account of Colombian painters that begins with Gregorio Vásquez de Arce y Ceballos (1638?1711), considers figures like Ramón Torres Méndez (1809?85), Roberto Páramo (1859–1939), and Epifanio Garay (1849–1903), and culminates with Acevedo Bernal. The text also mentions some of the specific works that Acevedo Bernal produced over the course of his long career.


When eminent politician Guillermo Valencia Castillo (1873?1943) wrote this text, one of his primary ambitions was to become president of Colombia. He was also a widely recognized poet whose style partook of what was called literary “Modernism.” His book Ritos (1899) is an indisputable point of reference for avant-garde literature from Colombia and Latin America as a whole. It was unprecedented for a living artist from Colombia to receive recognition of the sort that Valencia gives Ricardo Acevedo Bernal (1867?1930) in this article. The text also evidences the academic taste of Bogotá’s intelligentsia of the time. This essay forms part of a series of laudatory writings on Acevedo Bernal published in the late thirties to pay tribute to his career. Most intellectuals of the time fought to get the Círculo de las Bellas Artes as to recognize Acevedo Bernal as the single most important living artist in Colombia. In 1911, Andrés de Santamaría (1860–1945)—the other outstanding 19th-century Colombian painter—had settled in Europe.  


In the early 20th century, Acevedo Bernal was the country’s most emblematic academic painter. He first studied painting with Santiago Páramo (1841?1915); he went on to enroll in the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes of Bogotá; he was a disciple of Pantaleón Mendoza (1860?1910). In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, he took part in a number of important exhibitions held in Bogotá, among them the Salón of 1899 and the Exposición del Centenario of 1910, where a series of his works was awarded a medal of honor. He was commissioned to paint, among other works, the Bautismo de Cristo for the baptistery of the Catedral of Bogotá and the Evangelista San Marcos for one of that building’s pendentives, as well as portraits of important figures from Bogotá and other cities in Colombia. In Europe, he studied at the Académie Julian in Paris and, when he returned to Colombia in 1905, he was named director of the Escuela de Bellas Artes.

Alejandro Garay Celeita
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Reproduced with permission of Martha Hubach Valencia, Museo Nacional Guillermo Valencia, Popayán, Colombia