With the eleven fresco murals he made from 1935 to 1938 on the walls of the old Medellín city palace, artist Pedro Nel Gómez (1899–1984) formed part of a movement that suddenly transported art from Colombia and from the Department of Antioquia into modernism, breaking with the nineteenth-century tradition as well as incipient local academicism.
The painter, who was well versed in Renaissance frescos, viewed mural painting as a way to speak to the people. Nel Gómez believed that as in the Middle Ages, the people would find the key to redemption in frescos. Nel Gómez also demonstrated that upheaval, social protest, popular dances, airplanes and other machines, as well as cunning agents of capital who exploited natural resources, could be motifs for painting.
To make the murals for the Medellín city palace —currently the Museo de Antioquia— Nel Gómez developed a novel technique that differed from the one used in traditional Florentine frescos. Specifically, the technique entailed doing away with the use of white and rendering light and transparency by removing color from the pigment once it had been placed on the surface. It was due to this technique—which Nel Goméz called “carving colorings”—that Swiss architect Le Corbusier (1887–1965) described these murals, which he visited in person, as “frescos that look like large watercolors.”