Saturday, July 6, 2013


As far as pre-Colombian art goes, there are always the usual mediums: pottery and stonework. And there’s one addition here: goldwork. There were such extensive goldwork pieces found – large pieces, small pieces – that it’s no doubt this was the basis for the El Dorado myths. However, the vast majority of the pieces that have been found were mostly for religious purposes, as well as for jewelry and adornment. The thing that makes gold so coveted and valuable is that it doesn’t rust, and it’s quite malleable when heated, making it easy to shape. One of the Muisca chiefs would cover himself with gold dust for special ceremonies and was therefore called El Dorado. However, most people thought El Dorado, or “The Lost City of Gold” was an actual place, leading numerous Spanish conquistadores to travel to this area in search for this infamous place, all for naught. Many of these gold pieces are housed in the Museo del Oro (Museum of Gold) in Bogotá, Colombia.

From cave paintings to abstract art, painting is also an important facet of Colombian art. The earliest colonial paintings were mostly religious-based in nature and included both canvas paintings and mural paintings. It later gave way to the rococo style, for which one popular form of painting was the portrait. Practically everyone had one. It was sort of the thing. One of the most prominent painters at this time was Joaquín Guttiérrez.
Botero's version of the Mona Lisa. 
After independence and with the subsequent European influences, many of the art styles and movements of Europe were also carried on in Colombia. Modern art is generally embraced and found as public art throughout the country. One of the most famous artists is the still life artist Fernando Botero. One thing I noticed about his signature style of painting is that the people he paints are always depicted as plump, overweight, chunky. They often show the absurdity, irony, and realism of the moment. His style is called boterismo, named after himself. 
Juan de Castellanos
Early literature in Colombia mostly consisted of poetry – mostly religious in nature – and historical accounts. Actually, the longest poem ever written in the Spanish language is called Elegías de Varones Ilustres de Indias by Juan de Castellanos. Following independence, the trend in literature was to follow the Romantic genre taking dominance in Europe. Like other areas in the Americas and Europe, the trend in literature towards the end of the 19th century and early 20th century was to write about peasant life, lifestyles of the working class, and the daily struggles they felt. Of course, they were also critical of the government and its response to these issues. This movement in Colombia was called costumbrismo.

As the 20th century rolled on, various smaller literary movements and variations came and went. Probably the most famous Colombian author is Gabriel García Márquez. Winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, he’s most famous for One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, both of which are on my massive reading list, but I haven’t got to yet. Along with Márquez, many writers in Colombia, like Álvaro Cepeda Samudio, Eduardo Caballero Calderón, and Manuel Mejía Vallejo also worked as journalists.

Up next: music and dance

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