Meet the famous Ecuadorian painter Oswaldo Guayasamín

by Deborah Durrfeld

Oswaldo Guayasamín (1919-1999) is one of Ecuador’s most important artists. The art of Oswaldo Guayasamín can be seen in all the major museums of modern art throughout Latin and South America. During my first visit to Ecuador in 2006, I encountered the work of this famous Ecuadorian artist. I was impressed by the absurd shapes, his use of color, and especially the intense emotions on the faces of the figures he portrayed. In Quito, the capital of Ecuador, you can find his most important works in the Fundación Guayasamín. Read more about the life and work of famous Ecuadorian painter Oswaldo Guayasamín.

About the Ecuadorian artist Oswaldo Guayasamín

Oswaldo Guayasamín was a master painter and sculptor. Born in 1919 in Quito Ecuador, as the first of ten children and grew up in a poor family. His father was of indigenous origins, and his mother was a Mestiza: a person of combined European and indigenous American descent. Guayasamín started painting at only six years old. In 1941, Oswaldo Guayasamin graduated from the School of Fine Arts in Quito as a painter and sculptor and traveled to several Latin American countries. Among his friends, whom he often portrayed, were Fidel Castro, former Chilean president Salvador Allende, Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Márquez and Guatemalan activist Rigoberta Menchú.

Art of Oswaldo Guayasamín

The artist Oswaldo Guayasamín is considered one of the most important and famous artists in Ecuador. In his life, he made over 13,000 paintings and held more than 180 exhibitions all over the world. Including Paris, Barcelona, New York, Buenos Aires, Moscow, Prague, and Rome. His work, which often represents different forms of social criticism, was highly influenced by cubism, the works of Pablo Picasso, and Mexican artist José Clemente.

Social criticism | The art of Oswaldo Guayasamín

Social criticism is a central theme in the work of Oswaldo Guayasamín, influenced by the social problems he encountered in his youth. One of those experiences was the death of his best friend, who died during a demonstration in Quito while Guayasamín was attending college. Another great influence on his work, were his travels through the Americas, where he was confronted with lots of poverty. Guayasamín’s art of human and social inequalities achieved international recognition.

These experiences inspired him to portray the oppression, poverty and suffering of the local population. As you can see below, the famous painter depicted figures in tears, covering their eyes with their hands or reaching their arms up to heaven in desperation. He often used two different colors to paint their faces and eyes, symbolizing people who are of mixed descent, just like himself.

Art by Ecuadorian artist Guayasamín in the Guayasamín museum in Quito Ecuador

The Oswaldo Guayasamín museum: Fundación Guayasamín

In 1976, artist Oswaldo Guayasamín founded his own museum, with the purpose of preserving and presenting his collected art and his own artworks. The name of the museum is Fundación Guayasamín. The Fundación Guayasamín is located in the Bellavista district in Quito Ecuador. It is also the location of the house where he spent 23 years of his life collecting numerous artifacts and pieces of indigenous art from Ecuador. The Foundation protects more than 2,000 pieces of Pre-Combian artifacts, over 500 examples of Spanish Colonial paintings and sculptures, and more than 250 works of modern artists, including many of his own pieces.

La Capilla del Hombre, or The Chapel of Man, is often called his masterwork. The chapel contains a few of his paintings dedicated to the suffering of the people. He worked on La Capilla del Hombre until his death. The chapel is located next to Guayasamín’s home in the hills, overlooking Quito.

Other famous works by Ecuadorian painter Oswaldo Guayasamín

Ecuadorian artist Guayasamín created a number of important murals and panels. Some of which are now featured in the government palace of Quito, the University of Quito, and the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. The Congress of Ecuador contains his 360 m2 mural depicting the Ecuadorian history. And the Barajas Airport in Madrid features his murals, dedicated to Spain and Latin America.

Visiting information about Fundación Guayasamín

Fundación Guayasamín is located in the area of Quito called Bellavista. The best way to reach this place is by taxi, or you can take a bus called Cooperativa “Vencedores” (ruta Bellavista) and get off at Canal 8. The museum is open daily from 10 AM until 5 PM.

Do you want to get inspired by more art and artists coming from Latin America? Read on here.

This post is also available in: Nederlands (Dutch)

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