Guayasamín (1919-1999) was with no doubt the most representative Ecuadorian painter of this century. His Indian name and ancestors, the poverty conditions of his childhood, the oppressing crisis of the 30´s, the Mexican revolution, the Spanish Civil War, and everything else that occurred in the world made him perceive a reality that would becomes more acute with time. Facing this reality he adopted an ideological attitude reflected in his plastic art concept and in his political ideas.
In 1932 he entered the “Bellas Artes” School of Quito. In 1941 he graduated as a painter and sculptor.
In 1942 he obtained his first award. For the “Portrait of his brother” he was granted the prize “Mariano Aguilera”. Also, in 1942-43 he traveled in the United States invited by the Department of the State. Later, he traveled to Mexico where he worked with Orozco in the creation of a mural and he met the poet Pablo Neruda.
In 1944 and 1945 he traveled through South America. He took notes here and there for that which would be its great series Huacayñan, where Latin American problems were represented. This was his first series of 103 oil paintings, which was called the “Path of cry”.
His international fame started when he displayed an exhibition and obtained the prize at the Hispanic-American Biennial of Barcelona (1956) as well as the prize to the best South American painter at the Biennial of Sao Paulo (1957).
In 1957 he built a mural in crystal from Venice which represents “The history of civilization”. Two years later he won the great prize “Premio de Salón” in the second biennial of painting, sculpture and engraving of Mexico.
Next, came the influence of the Mexican mural painters and also of Picasso, above all the painting “Guernica” which definitely marked his style.
In Guayasamín comes forth the need to make use of big spaces. He was a serial painter. He could not synthesize in only one canvas his emotions. Therefore, the series “Seven Women Crying” was created (about the Spanish Civil War), later he created 15 paintings of the famous hands. Later would come his most well known collection: “The Age of Wrath”; and While I live I remember you (“The Age of Tenderness”, dedicated to his mother).
He created a group of paintings dedicated to the Indian race, in which the painter shows the heads of women and children always manifesting their ethnic features. Other cycle is dedicated to the world of black people, in which the theme of dancing appears: he paints dancers of crying mouths. These series ends with a topic-titled Ecuador, very stylized. In these painting the desperation and faces tormented by pain are always present.
In Guayasamín´s portraits the features of the people portrayed are shown with great objectivity. He also paints flower topics and landscapes. In addition, no one like him has been able to express that vision of the nature that surrounds his city of birth, Quito. Of this city, he underlines with passion the geometrical contours of houses and the mountains of the encompassing environment. He paints mountains with pointed tops and, in the skirts, the city.
He painted great murals in Ecuador at the House of Culture, the Central University, the Government Palace, and the Provincial Council, being the most famous and controversial that of the National Congress. He has also painted other murals around the world: at the Bolívar Center in Caracas; at the Barajas airport in Madrid; at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.
He has had exhibitions of great dimensions with over a hundred paintings at the most important museums of France, Spain, Italy, Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Argentina, etc.
In 1977, together with his siblings, he creates the Guayasamín Foundation and through it, he donates to Ecuador all his patrimony and organizes three museums: A pre-Columbian- Archeological, a Colonial and a Contemporary museum. In the latter one is shown the works of his most important collection painted between 1964 and 1984, which corresponds to “The Age of Wrath”.
He welcomed famous people, writers, artists, politician, and statesmen. Among them: King Juan Carlos of Spain, princess Caroline of Monaco, Felipe González, Salvador Allende, Francois Miterrand, Fidel Castro, Neruda, Gabriela Mistral, Rulfo, Juan Ramón Jiménez and many others.
In 1996 he started in Quito his most important work which is a building called “The chapel of Man”, where he painted a group of murals. They are reminders of Our America, of the pre-Colombian world, the conquest, the colonial times and the half-breed process. This work was declared by UNESCO as “Prioritarian for the Culture”.
Critics and art collectors, consider that the work of art of Guayasamín, whose identity is universally unmistakable, will transcend, because it reflects with wrath and tenderness the image of what Guayasamin himself used to call “The time in which I’ve had to live”.
This is, as a whole, the humanity that Guayasamín shows us: humanity without hope. The greatness of his painting has to do precisely with the description of the depth of those feelings that torment humanity.