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In these two supplements, Viennese historian and critic Walter Engel describes exhibitions and artists that in his view shaped the modern art scene in Colombia from 1934 to 1957. Engel distinguishes two distinct periods: 1934 to 1951, and 1952 to 1957. He also provides a brief description of art during the colonial period, nineteenth-century academic art, and the rare cases of Colombian artists in the early twentieth century. He begins his account by discussing what he considers a critical year, 1934, [which represents] a turning point in Colombian art that witnessed the beginning of “new painting.” To illustrate his thesis, Engel then discusses the most important events that took place each year.


This document provides a brief history of Colombian art from the unwavering viewpoint of Walter Engel (1908–2005), an Austrian historian and critic who lived in Colombia from 1938 to 1965. Engel puts forth the thesis that modern art began in Colombia in 1934. Engel’s writings on art after 1942, mostly for Revista de las Indias, which was a cultural outlet for the Ministry of Education, track the development of the visual arts in Colombia during the forties, when academic, Americanist, and modern art formed part of the local scene, and the fifties, that witnessed the strengthening of the “moderns.” Engel provides an account of developments at the Salón Nacional de Artistas of Colombia as well as exhibitions, new art spaces, and emerging artists.

Engel’s text places special emphasis on Colombian artists Ignacio Gómez Jaramillo (1910–1970), Pedro Nel Gómez (1899–1948), Luis Alberto Acuña Tapias (1904–1984), and Carlos Correa (1912–1985) as instigators of a new Colombian painting. These were the key figures in a period of heated debate on modern art. He also discusses the emergence of artists Enrique Grau (1920–2004), Guillermo Wiedemann (1905–1969) and most importantly, Alejandro Obregón Rosés (1920–1992). Engel even reviews the exhibitions between 1946 and 1949 that “revolted” against the academy.


Cristina Lleras
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Courtesy of the Engel/ Marks Families, Ontario, Canada