Oswaldo Guayasamín

Oswaldo Guayasamín (1919-1999) was an Ecuadorian artist whose work is characterized by its Cubist-styled depictions of Latin American people. Guayasamín focused especially on portraying the rampant oppression, poverty, and political strife he witnessed growing up. From a very early age he showed a passion for art and went on to attend the School of Fine Arts in Quito. The artist’s subsequent rise to prominence came about with his exhibition at the Salón Nacional de Acuarelistas y Dibujantes in 1948. 

Followed by shows at the São Paulo Biennial, the Luxembourg Palace in Paris, and the Palais de Glace in Buenos Aires, Guayasamín is considered by some to be a national hero. A major legacy of his includes the completion of La Capilla del Hombre, a chapel remembering the mistreatment of indigenous peoples in Latin America. During his life Guayasmín befriended the famed writers Gabriel Garcia-Marquez and Pablo Neruda. His murals can be seen at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris and at Adolfo Suárez Airport in Madrid.

In denouncement of violence, painter and sculptor Oswaldo Guayasamín dedicated his practice to exploring expressions of pain and misery in the collective human history. His work, which he considered an homage to the struggle of mankind, was both expressionist and humanist in style; he also borrowed significantly from the folk painting traditions of indigenous peoples of Latin America. As a result, Guayasamín is sometimes considered an “indigenous expressionist.” He produced sculptures, murals, and paintings. The most common subject in his works is the human figure, distorted by pain into an emaciated and skeletal form. He passed away in 1999 and was once quoted, “Mantengan encendida una luz que siempre voy a volver,” or "Keep a light burning for I will always return.”