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This article in the Revista Semana discusses the research and sketches being done by Santiago Martínez Delgado in order to portray the congressional session in Cúcuta when the Liberator, Simón Bolívar, and General Francisco Santander took office. In that session, held in the Central Hall of the national capitol on October 3, 1821, the two men assumed their respective roles of president and vice president of Gran Colombia. The mural, which would replace a triptych by Andrés de Santamaría (1860–1945) on the north wall of the hall, would be officially inaugurated at the IX Conferencia Panamericana (1948) with 21 nations of the Americas in attendance. The document mentions that the artist (who was a member of the Colombian Academy of History) took license in his depiction of the event in two ways. First, he placed the liberator and the general together assuming their charges, when, historically, the two took office at different times during the Congreso de Cúcuta. Secondly, the artist did not take into account the typical atmosphere of the hall in Villa del Rosario because it was a case “of a mural painting that would become an integral, functional part of the exterior architecture; [thus, he gave] the wall more depth and the set, more nobility.” Divided into chapters, the article in the Revista Semana also includes a short biography of Martínez Delgado, his foreign studies, the development of his artwork over time and the medals he was awarded. It goes on to provide an explanation of fresco, both the preparation of the wall based on Vitruvius’s method [consisting of phases]: “trillusatio” (base), “arenatum” (sand), “marmoratum” (marble) and “stucco”, and the painting method. The artist had to use colors made from minerals dissolved in water, then apply the preliminary color, called “verdaccio,” a mix of ocher and black and lime. Finally, he had to apply the final colors and go over the mural with the brush several times, because the first application of colors would have faded. The article ends with a short explanation of this mural’s theme and some of the public figures included in the theme.
This document is important as a summary of the process of creating an artwork that represents a key moment in Colombian history, according to the country’s historians. This was the Constituent Congress in Cúcuta, which met in Villa del Rosario (a municipality near the city) between May 6 and October 14, 1821. It was an event that strengthened representative democracy in Colombia, launched a national legal system with the passing of the Constitution of Cúcuta (1821) and affirmed Gran Colombia. This “Greater Colombia” was a geopolitical bloc that existed between 1819 and 1830, through a union of Venezuela and Nueva Granada [now Colombia and Quito (Ecuador)]. The representatives at this congress also promulgated numerous laws with respect to freedom of the press, property and protectionism for national industries as well as the development of agriculture.
Executed within two years by the Colombian artist Santiago Martínez Delgado (1906-54), this mural can still be found in the Elliptical Hall in the National Capitol, the seat of Colombia’s National Congress, the country’s highest legislative body. It was created as part of the preparations for the IX Conferencia Panamericana, held in Bogotá between March and April 1948, during which time the Conference established the Organization of American States (OAS). The Organizing Committee for the IX Conference was chaired by the head of the conservative party, later president of Colombia, Laureano Gómez Castro (1950-53). He was also well known for his work as an art critic, a defender of academic art trends and the influence of Spanish art, and the enemy of avant-garde art movements [see “El expresionismo como síntoma de pereza e inhabilidad en el arte”, doc. no. 1089142 and “La exposición Gómez Campuzano”, doc. no. 1185065]. The mural was officially inaugurated on March 30, 1948, at the first meeting of the Conference. Ten days later, the liberal politician Jorge Eliécer Gaitán (former Minister of Education) would be murdered. This assassination unleashed the widespread riots that are now known under the name of “El Bogotazo.”
Santiago Martínez Delgado was an artist with many talents who not only rendered works in the field of painting but also created works of literature, history, and graphic design, as well as materials for advertising and radio broadcasting. His work as a historian, whether through the graphic representation of public figures in national history or events such as the Congreso de Cúcuta for the Capitol Hall (granted, with artistic license) can be summarized in the words of the art critic Gabriel Giraldo Jaramillo. When Jaramillo saw the mural, he stated: “Everything here is necessary; the artist has ruled out anything circumstantial or anecdotal and has respected the historical truth; he created this work based on documents interpreted with emotion and awareness” [see “Santiago Martínez D. y la pintura histórica,” doc. no. 1080118].