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Oswaldo Guayasamín (Ecuadorian 1919-1999)
Oswaldo Guayasamín (Ecuadorian 1919-1999)

Ciudad de Quito

Oswaldo Guayasamín (Ecuadorian 1919-1999)
Ciudad de Quito
signed 'GUAYASAMIN' (lower left)
oil on canvas
37 x 52 in. (94 x 132 cm.)
Painted circa 1980.
Acquired from the artist.
Anon. sale, Jorge Carroza Casa de Remates, Santiago de Chile, 16 December 1995, lot 118 (illustrated in color).
Anon. sale, Christie's, New York, 28 May 1998, lot 12 (illustrated in color).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.

Brought to you by

Virgilio Garza
Virgilio Garza

Lot Essay

We are grateful to the Fundación Guayasamín for their assistance in confirming the authenticity of this work.

An expressionist of the first rank, Guayasamín gained international stature during the 1950s and '60s for the insistent and hauntingly visceral emotion of his paintings of an oppressed and tragic humanity. Considered the "Picasso of Latin America," Guayasamín portrayed a sundry cast of indigenous subjects drawn from the working classes of the Americas, channeling leftist outrage at social injustice through powerfully graphic, modernist forms. Guayasamín is best known for two epic, decades-long cycles of paintings--Huacayñán ("Trail of Tears") and La edad de la ira ("The Age of Anger")--that register the cruelties of the human condition and the universality of rage, unrest, and alienation. His landscape paintings mark a compelling and exceptional departure from the more assertive ideology of his other work, and the present painting numbers among his most iconic images of the city he adored.

The Spanish scholar José Camón Aznar estimated that Guayasamín painted Quito on fourteen occasions between 1942 and 1981, rendering the city in intense and brilliant colors--red, blue, black, yellow-- reflective of the affective weight it long retained for its native son. "The artist himself spoke of how these landscapes were both homages to Quito--including Mt. Pichincha that towers over it--and varaderos autorretratos ('self-portrait docks') that register his own personal associations with the cityscapes," David Craven has noted. "At once troubled and emancipatory, these associations emotionally mark his depictions of Quito and its splendid Andean backdrop."[1] Guayasamín believed that Quito could best be approximated from "a more spiritual than physical perspective," and the present painting vividly describes the city's germinal energy and encrusted historical consciousness, intimately personal touchstones for the artist and his work.[2]

Ciudad de Quito depicts the city from a bird's-eye point of view, translating its rocky geography and networks of streets into interlocking geometries that encircle the base of its massive, volcanic mountain. Guayasamín juxtaposes the gridded, inhabited spaces of the city against faceted planes of rich, verdant colors that define the mountainside, abstracting the cityscape through Cubist facture and dramatic color. The flattened geometries of the city also nod to the linear patterning of pre-Columbian art and architectural forms, whose precedent informed Guayasamín's paintings at both a formal and a socio-historical level, as he often explained. The visual impact of Ciudad de Quito is perhaps most exquisitely felt, however, in the vibrant color harmonies that build from warm orange-yellows to saturated greens and blues that glimmer under the thick cloud cover that Guayasamín described as "gray stones hovering above the city." The telluric power of the city, movingly evoked through its ancient topography and luminous, mineral colors, here becomes a profession of the artist's lifelong affection for Quito and the primordial emotions instilled within its rocky layers. "I adore Quito, I was born here," Guayasamín once acknowledged. "It is a terrible city, very deep, very profound."[3]

Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park
1) David Craven, "Oswaldo Guayasamín," Blanton Museum of Art: Latin American Collection (Austin: Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin, 2006), 231.
2) Guayasamín, quoted in Craven, "Oswaldo Guayasamín," 231.
3) Ibid.


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