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  HOME | Arts & Entertainment

Latin American Father of Abstract Art De Szyszlo Leaves Behind Lasting Legacy

LIMA – Peruvian artist Fernando De Szyszlo died on Monday in Lima at the age of 92, leaving behind indigenous-themed masterpieces featured in prestigious museums worldwide.

De Szyszlo was one of the most renowned painters of the 20th century and the main precursor to abstract art in Peru.

The artist was found dead at his resident along with Liliana Yavar, his 96-year-old wife, with whom he spent the last 29 years of his life, in an apparent domestic accident, of which details have yet to be announced.

With painting and sculpture as his favorite branches of art, De Szyszlo combined the myths and symbols of Ancient Peru with abstraction and modernism through a non-figurative language, for which he garnered national and international recognition.

His masterpiece, Inkarri (1968), symbolically represents, through abstract shapes of stark red and black tones, the myth in which the last Inca, after being torn apart at the hands of the Spanish colonists, recomposed his body, defeated the foreign invaders and restored the ancient empire.

His other prominent works were featured under the same themes including Apu Inca Atawallpaman (1963) and Paisaje (1969).

During the following decades, De Szyszlo’s artworks evolved towards abstract expressionism with the use of strong colors in pieces titled the Interior series (1972), Waman Wasi (1975) and Anabase (1982).

De Szyszlo was born in the Peruvian capital of Lima on July 5, 1925, to Vitold De Szyszlo, a Polish physicist, and Maria Valdelomar, a sister of the famous Peruvian writer Abraham Valdelomar. He was raised in the bohemian district of Barranco, home to numerous Peruvian artists and writers.

He was a student of architecture at the National University of Engineering (UNI), before dropping out to focus on art.

He later got into the School of Arts of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP), where he was an apprentice under the guidance of Austrian expressionist painter Adolf Winternitz.

In 1947, along with poet Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, he founded the magazine Las Moradas, featuring cultural life in Peru, and had his first exhibition, showing his cubism-influenced paintings.

Two years later, he married a Peruvian poet, Blanca Varela, with whom he had two children, Vicente and Lorenzo, the latter of whom died in an airplane accident in 1997, a loss which deeply affected him.

On the day of his wedding, De Szyszlo traveled to Paris, where he was exposed to the works of classic painters and had his first experience with surrealism and abstractionism.

He also had an opportunity to meet with renowned intellectuals in France like Mexican poet Octavio Paz, French poet Andre Breton and Argentine novelist Julio Cortazar.

He became a great influence in the Peruvian art scene after he returned to Lima and served as a professor at the PUCP School of Art between 1956-1976.

He was also a visiting professor at several universities in the United States including Cornell, Yale and Texas.

After divorcing Varela, De Szyszlo married Liliana Yavar in 1988, with whom he was found dead on Monday at their home.

Although he was never an affiliate of any political party, De Szyszlo always showed a strong commitment to politics by participating in the Liberty Movement with his best friend Vargas Llosa in 1987.

De Szyszlo had always shown disapproval of the former government led by imprisoned ex-President Alberto Fujimori and even in the days leading to his death, expressed opposition to any kind of judicial pardon that would exempt Fujimori from receiving the 25-year imprisonment for crimes against humanity.

 

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