Enrique Grau, 83, whose paintings and sculptures of Indian and Afro-Colombian figures made him one of Colombia’s most acclaimed artists, died Thursday of pulmonary complications at a Bogota hospital.
Grau, born in 1920 to a prominent Cartagena family, was considered one of three modern Colombian masters, along with the renowned Fernando Botero and Alejandro Obregon.
His surrealistic triptych “Triptico de Cartagena de Indias” featured some of his most famous relatives, including an aunt who was Colombia’s first national beauty queen and an uncle who parachuted into bullfighting rings.
His first exhibition was held in 1940, before he had any formal art training. He studied in 1941-42 at the Art Students League in New York City, and later toured Italy. He eventually worked in several media, including set design, costumes and film.
Grau established his reputation as a painter in the early 1960s with a style that “combines refined mimetic skills with satire,” according to the Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture.
Grau’s work has been the subject of retrospectives in Colombia, as well as at the Guggenheim Museum in New York and Paris’ Museum of Modern Art. He recently donated 1,300 of his works to a museum scheduled to open this year in Cartagena.