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In the book Pintoras colombianas contemporáneas, Austrian critic Walter Engel presents a group of [women] artists that actively participated in the country’s art scene during the forties and fifties. Engel explains that the selection is not based on “courtesy” or “an ungrounded act of gentlemanliness,” but is instead a commitment to remembering the importance of these figures and how they represent different strains of modernism. The text offers an account of the early work and later development of the following artists: Judith Márquez (an outstanding representative of lyrical abstraction), Lucy Tejada (as part of the figurative strain that interpreted the human figure), Cecilia Porras (an artist who straddled figuration and abstraction in natural and urban landscapes), and Bolivian artist Sofía Urrutia Holguín (as a representative of naïve art). He also offers short profiles of a number of artists that were at one time a significant presence at the Salones Anuales de Artistas, including Alicia Cajiao, Cecilia Aya, Emma Reyes, Hena Rodríguez, Elvira Martínez de Nieto, Lola Fernández Caballero, Blanca Sinesterra de Carreño, Gisela Ballesteros de Martínez, Teresa Cuéllar (known as Teyé), and Margarita Lozano. The second part of the book shows photographs of the artists and their works.


The book Pintoras colombianas contemporáneas is part of the series entitled Cuadernos de Arte Colombiano, published by the División de Extensión Cultural of the Distrito Especial de Bogotá. The series also includes a publication on Guillermo Wiedemann (1905–1969); at the time Engel’s book was published, an edition on Alejandro Obregón (1920–1992) was being prepared, as was one about twenty young Colombian painters.

This publication is important for its emphasis on the role of women in Colombian art on the basis of a selection of artists who earned recognition at the Salones Anuales de Artistas, as well as international competitions. Viennese critic Walter Engel (1908–2009) discusses each individual contribution to Colombian modern art, making reference to the beginnings of their respective careers and participation in different competitions, as well as group and solo exhibitions. In his analysis, Engels dwells on the work of Colombian artists Judith Márquez (1925–1994), Lucy Tejada (b. 1920), Sofía Urrutia Holguín (1912–2002), and Cecilia Porras (1920–1971). The information about the artists Engel discussed in less detail is also quite useful to current research, since the participation on the art scene of some of them was promising, but brief. From Engel’s descriptions, it is clear that he finds purely visual value in all of their works, whether a figurative work by Tejada or Urrutia, or an abstraction by Márquez or Porras. For that reason, emphasis is placed on the formal values of their work.

Engel’s approach here is akin to that of Casimiro Eiger (1909–1987), a Polish critic living in Colombia, Marta Traba (1923–1983), and other works by Engel himself. In the fifties, these critics followed the production of the generation of Colombian artists—like the women mentioned here—who furthered modern visual language.


Nicolás Gómez
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Courtesy of the Engel/ Marks Families, Ontario, Canada
Courtesy of Casa Editorial El Tiempo, Bogotá, Colombia