This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from the Fundación Guayasamín signed by Verenice Guayasamín, dated 6 April 2016.
“Oswaldo Guayasamín, whose art springs from the earth and the people, is not merely an artist who draws on the past, the traditions and the civilization of Ecuador,” Federico Mayor, former Director-General of UNESCO, once observed. “His paintings are the expression and symbol of the universal American who has turned art into the tool of solidarity amongst men.” The eldest of ten children, Guayasamín graduated from Quito’s Escuela de Bellas Artes in 1941 and drew early acclaim for his defiant, emotional images of an oppressed and tragic humanity. His searing, graphic portrayals of indigenous subjects, drawn from the working classes of the Americas, belong within the expressionist lineage of El Greco, Goya, and the great Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco, with whom he spent time in 1943. Two epic, decades-long cycles of paintings—Huacayñán (“Trail of Tears”) and La edad de la ira (“The Age of Anger”)—have long defined Guayasamín’s practice, registering in toto the cruelties of the human condition and the universality of rage, unrest, and alienation.
Related to the earlier Huacayñán period (1946-52), Toro y cóndor symbolically restages the historical drama of Spanish conquest with revisionist fervor, as the indigenous condor prevails over the Spanish bull. This allegorical battle is reenacted annually at the Yawar Fiesta, or Blood Festival, held in numerous Andean villages on July 29, one day after Peru celebrates its independence. A condor, a giant and majestic bird sacred to the ancient Inca, is tied to the back of a bull at the climax of the festival; incited by a matador and fortified by the fermented maize drink chicha, the bird attempts to gouge the bull’s eyes as the animal writhes in anger. “The juxtaposition of the condor and the bull represents the duality of the Andean world, between the celestial world and the earthly world,” the anthropologist Juan Ossio explains; the conjunction of “the condor and the bull, heaven and earth…is a ritual that recreates the wholeness of the community.” Originating during colonial times, according to popular lore, the festival developed as a form of resistance to Spanish rule, and its modern manifestation recognizes the resilience of indigenous communities and the solidarity of the Andean people.
Guayasamín painted variations of Toro y cóndor on multiple occasions, most famously at a monumental scale for the Capilla del Hombre, the museum in Ecuador that he dedicated to the Latin American people. The present painting channels the emotional intensity of Andean resistance through furious color—the blood-red body of the bull, its legs splaying downward in defeat, and the blazing orange horizon—subdued by the torrent of gray feathers and the dark ground. The triumph of the condor is both a battle cry for the mestizo nation and a memorial to the violence and exploitation of its colonial past; in its tremendous pathos, the painting stands as an enduring image of indigenismo rooted not only in anguish and exploitation, but also in national renewal. A personal gift from the artist to the renowned Spanish matador Luis Miguel Dominguín, the present version of Toro y cóndor specially honors the ritual between bull and bullfighter, drawing the political metaphor of the indigenous condor within the artistic lineage of Goya and above all Picasso, a friend of Dominguín and an artist greatly admired by Guayasamín.
Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park
1 Federico Mayor, Guayasamín: UNESCO (Nürnberg: DA Verlag Das Andere, 1994), 14.
2 Juan Ossio, quoted in William Neuman, “Pitting Heaven and Earth in a Fierce Andean Rite,” New York Times, August 10, 2013.