This painter of High Plateau roots is known as the initiator of an indigenism-like painting trend. His pictures enhance Bolivia, his native country, and this is why he paints faces, Aymara scenes and high-plateau landscapes. Text: Remembered as one of the masters of Latin American art, Cecilio Guzman de Rojas led an action-packed life: his experience in Europe, the suffering and pain as soldier during the Chaco War, his immersion in Aymará culture and in his native Potosí. He painted Machu Pichu in pre-tourism times and in his artwork expressed the most meaningful aspects of his people, their devotions and their religion. His artworks are renowned even nowadays, although over 50 years have elapsed since his death.
Cecilio Guzmán de Rojas was born on 24 October 1900 in Potosí. He demonstrated his artistic endowment when he still was very young; his parents confirmed his talent and decided to send him to the city of Cochabamba, where he worked at the workshop of Avelino Nogales, a painter who had studied in France. However, his ambition was greater and thanks to his persistence, he was awarded a fellowship to study at the San Fernando Royal Academy of Madrid, where he stayed between 1919 and 1929 and studied inder the masters Julio Romero de Torres, Subiaurre, Carbonero, Benedito and others.
Back in Bolivia he initiated a productive career as creator, and linked to the plastic arts took charge in 1929 of the Hernando Siles National Academy of Fine Arts of La Paz, where he mainly focused on the defense of the Bolivian art heritage and the cataloging of artworks. As a result of his outstanding participación in this field , the British Council awarded him a scholarship to study this specialty in London. The next year, the then President of Bolivia Hernando Siles called him back to create the Retrospective Art Museum of the National Mint.
Apart from these activities, Cecilio Guzmán de Rojas was renowned as the initiator of a painting genre that is closely related to the indigenism. Each one of his artworks reflects how much he valued his native country’s roots, painting Aymara facial features and scenes as well as beautiful high-plateau landscapes.
An event that marked him notably and is clearly reflected in his painting was the armed conflict of his country with Uruguay; it induced his denunciation of the pain and the dramatic events this confrontation brought on. His series “The Chaco War” shows the soldiers’ suffering at the battlefront.
He visited Spain, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Brazil, England and Sweden, however it was Great Britain where Renaissance art and Leonardo da Vinci’s painting techniques enthralled him and stimulated his intense research of the painting process he called ‘Coagulatoria’, which he found to have been used by the great masters. However, his reasearch and his painting activities broke off when in the prime of his life and career he died tragically in the Llojeta Valley of Paz. He was 51 years old. His most renowned paintings are ‘Beso del Idolo’ (The Idol’s Kiss), ‘Lujuria’ (Lust), ‘Autorretrato’ (Self-Portrait), ‘Avitaminoso’ (Vitamin-Deficiency), Insolación’(Sun Stroke), ‘Andina’ (Andean Woman), and ‘Amanecer’(Daybreak).