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In this text, Austrian-born critic Walter Engel, who lived in Colombia, discusses the life and work of Luis Alberto Acuña, a Colombian artist who was also a historian, critic, and advocate of Colombian art. In terms of Acuña’s advocacy work, Engel offers an overview of his performance at a number of positions: the director of the Teatro Colón in Bogotá, a professor at the Escuela de Bellas Artes, and director of museums and exhibitions for the Colombian Ministerio de Educación. In terms of Acuña’s work as a historian and critic, Engel mentions the essays he published in Mexico and Colombia. Finally, in terms of his work as an artist, Engel provides a timeline of Acuña’s activity, which encompasses his early training, his studies in Europe, and his exhibitions in Paris and Madrid. Engel provides a critical assessment of Acuña’s work, calling him “a great Colombian painter,” who was also a talented sculptor and advocate of Modern art in Colombia.


This text provides an initial approach to the life and work of Colombian artist Luis Alberto Acuña (1904–1984). It was written by Walter Engel (1908–2005) of Vienna, who arrived in Colombia in 1938 after the Anschluss, or Nazi annexation of Austria. Engel was a member of the International Association of Art Critics (IAAC), a contributor to the Revista de las Indias, a critic for the literary supplement to El Tiempo newspaper, and a member of the staff of the magazine Plástica. Engel contributed to a number of other magazines as well, among them Espiral, Proa, Revista de América, Cromos, and to Barranquilla-based newspapers such as El Liberal and El Heraldo. He made a major contribution to the Colombian artistic and cultural milieu thanks to his analysis, interpretation, and communication of art. This essay on Acuña exemplifies his rigorous and systematic approach to the analysis and assessment of Colombian art.


This text focuses specifically on how Acuña produced his work and, as such, it is useful to professionals working in the fields of preservation and restoration. In the Colombian milieu, it is by no means common for a critic to dwell on these topics.



Austrian-born art critic and historian Walter Engel was educated in art in Paris and Vienna. He settled in Bogotá in 1938. Engel—who also worked in business—wrote art criticism for newspapers such as El Tiempo and El Espectador, as well as the Revista de las Indias, Plástica, Índice Cultural, Espiral and Proa. In the mid-sixties, he moved to Toronto, Canada, where he eventually founded the Walter Engel Gallery.
Taller Historia Crítica del Arte (U.N.): Ruth Acuña Prieto
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Courtesy of the Engel/ Marks Families, Ontario, Canada