Beatriz Gonzalez

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Beatriz Gonázlez
Born (1938-11-16) November 16, 1938 (age 79)
Bucaramanga, Colombia
Residence Bogota, Colombia
Nationality Colombian
Alma mater University of Los Andes
Notable work The Suicides of Sisga I, II and III, La Última Mesa, Nací en Florencia
Movement Pop Art

Beatriz González is a painter, sculptor, critic, curator, art historian, and is considered one of the founders of what is known today as Modern Colombian Art.[1] She is often associated with the Pop Art movement, and is best known for her bright and colorful paintings depicting the traumatic social context in her home country,[2] specifically during the war torn period in Colombia that is known as La Violencia.


Beatriz González was born in Bucaramanga, Colombia in 1938. She has described herself as always loving art and drawing a lot, but never thinking that would end up being her profession. In the late 1950s, she enrolled in architecture school, but she dropped out only a few years later. González ended up enrolling in University of Los Andes (Colombia), graduating from their fine arts department in 1962.

González grew up in Colombia during the 1940s and 50s which was a very dark time in the history of Colombia. The country was plagued with violence and war that was due to the social and political upheaval that is known as La Violencia. Growing up during this time largely influenced González's understanding of Colombia society, and eventually even her artistic style.[3]


González has drawn inspiration for her art from many different sources, specifically naming Johannes Vermeer, Diego Velázquez and Antonio Molinari as inspirations when it comes to the use of colors and shapes.

Although González is often thought of and referred to as an artist of the pop art movement, she has never considered herself a pop artist. She often thought that the pop movement was not present in her preferred medium of painting and that it wouldn't be an appropriate label for the work she was doing. When asked if she had at any point considered herself a pop artist she responded with, "I’ve always considered myself more of a painter and within this remit I painted the joy of the underdeveloped. For me the type of art that I was doing could only circulate internationally as a curiosity. Mine was a provincial type of art without horizons, confronting the everyday: art is international."[4] She claims that all of the art she has done isn't "Pop", but in fact art that is a homage to her hometown of Bucaramanga and reflects its bold colors.

She has oftentimes been acknowledged for being a woman in a movement and country where a great deal of her peers were men, according to González, this has never been a problem for her and credits Marta Traba for encouraging the presence of woman in the Colombian art scene and states that she doesn't believe in the complex of the female artist who must be victimized.[2]

In 1965 González created a painting entitled The Suicides of Sisga, the painting was based on a picture of a young couple that had been published in a local newspaper after they jumped off the dam of the river Sisga in order to preserve the purity of their love. This work was initially refused at the 1965 Salon of Colombian Artists, disregarded and brushed off by the Jury as a "bad Botero". After one of González's friends and mentors, Marta Traba pressed the Jury to reconsider their decision, the painting was not only accepted, but Gonzáles won a special prize for her work, that eventually helped launch her career.[2] This painting is now known to reflect the impact of sensationalism of the national press of the creation of popular myths.

After accompanying her husband who is an architect to a hardware store in the 1970s, she began her work on various pieces of store-bought furniture that would generally be found in middle-class households earlier in the century. Typically she would take her images from well known Italian Renaissance and history paintings, or pictures from the present day news media, transferring these images onto cheap nightstands, chairs, coffee tables and beds painted by an amateur painter. She carefully coordinated her images with the furniture's function, such as painting the popes face on nightstands, conjuring up devotional images commonly found over beds or on nightstands in the average Colombian household.[5]

In 1985 González's work took a dramatic stylistic shift from its vibrant colors and shapes, to more dark imagery. This was after the M-19 guerrilla attack on the Palace of Justice in an attempt to try to president, they left 94 dead. Feeling that she couldn't laugh after that event, she began to explore themes of death and the drug trade as well as exploring some of Colombia's most tragic events.[2]

Individual artworks[edit]

The Suicides of Sisga I, II and III[edit]

One of González's most well known and earliest works depicts a young couple standing holding hands with one other and a bouquet of flowers with a slight smile on their faces. This painting was based off a photo that originally appeared in the press of a couple who commissioned a professional photographer to take their portrait before jumping off the dam of the Sisga on the outskirts of Bogotá. The couple were two young farmers who were deeply in love, but in an effort to preserve the purity of their love, the man (who was suspected to be mentally insane) convinced his girlfriend to commit suicide as a way to show their religious devotion in not wanting to sully the woman's purity. The picture was sent to their families, and when the news broke it was widely reprinted in black and white in the local newspapers. González claimed that she was attracted to this picture due to its "bad quality" or more so its plain quality, the simplification of the facial features that were almost deformed by the discrepancy.[4] This painting was the first of a number of paintings done by González in the 1960s in which she explored the intense violence in Colombia. During this time she produced a series of ink drawings on the same theme, that were tabloid photos of crimes of passion and political murders as well as advertisements for everything from bodybuilding to headache cures.[6]

La última mesa (The Last Table)[edit]

This work was one of González's first furniture pieces out of her series of furniture works. It consisted of Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper work that had been repainted onto metal sheets that were them mounted on a faux-wood dining table. González intentionally chose this particular work by da Vinci because of its popularity in Colombian culture, this image was commonly placed above the main entrance door as a good-luck charm against thieves.[4] This work along with many of the others out of her furniture works had the intention of being a "representation of representations" not only through an effort to make universal art, but also to subvert the original function of the furniture itself.[7] In this case, she intentionally takes all of the shadows and duller colors that made this work more European, and animated it more in hopes of making it more uniquely Latin American.

Nací en Florencia (I was born in Florence)[edit]

The full title of this work is Nací en Florencia y tenía 26 años cuando fue pintado mi retrato (esta frase pronunciada en una voz dulce y baja), translated to I was born in Florence and was 26 years old when my portrait was painted (this phrase pronounced in a low, sweet voice). In this work, González placed her own painting of da Vinci's Mona Lisa where the mirror would be on a very large and elaborate antique coat rack. She used the location of the would be mirror to frame her work so when the viewers look at the work they see an image of beauty recreated in a cheap, reproduced style. The long title of the work is in an additional effort to reveal its humorous and a potentially slightly erotic intent.[5]

Canción de cuna (Lullaby)[edit]

This work consisted of an image of a mother holding her child that was based on a picture that was widely printed and distributed by a printing company in Colombia. The painting was painted on a sheet of metal that was then mounted on the inside of a crib that González found in the streets of Bogóta that originally belonged to a hospital. The theme of mother and child was one that commonly occurred in her artwork thus turning González herself into an image of maternity and hints at her observations about woman in the social structure of society.[8]


  • The Suicides of Sisga I, II and III, 1965[9][1]
  • La última mesa, 1970
  • Canción de cuna (Lullaby), 1970
  • Saluti da San Pietro (Greetings from Saint Peter), 1971
  • Ludwig van Beethoven, 1973
  • Nací en Florencia, 1974


  • What an Honor to Be With You at This Historic Moment, Works 1965-1997, 1998, El Museo del Barrio[9]
  • Transmissions: Art in Eastern Europe and Latin America 1960-1980, Museum of Modern Art, New York[10]
  • I Am Still Alive: Everyday Life in Contemporary Drawing, March 23–September 19, 2011, Museum of Modern Art, New York[10]


  1. ^ a b Morgan, J.; Frigeri, F.; Coustou, E.; Dzuveroric, L. (2015). The World Goes Pop. Yale University Press. p. 195. ISBN 978-0-300-21699-8. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d Loiseau, Benoît (2016-11-02). "Meet Beatriz Gonzalez, Colombia's Queen of Pop Art | Amuse". Amuse. Retrieved 2017-11-15.
  3. ^ Tate. "Beatriz González | Tate". Tate. Retrieved 2017-11-17.
  4. ^ a b c Tate. "Artist interview: Beatriz González | Tate". Tate. Retrieved 2017-12-01.
  5. ^ a b Barnitz, Jacqueline; Frank, Patrick (2015). Twentieth-Century Art of Latin America. University of Texas Press. pp. 282–283.
  6. ^ Cotter, Holland (1998-09-04). "ART REVIEW; A Wry Defiance Behind Garish Colors and Tabloid Dramas". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-12-04.
  7. ^ Ramírez, Mari Carmen (2004). Inverted Utopias. Houston: Yale University.
  8. ^ "Beatriz González. Lullaby. 1970 | MoMA". The Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 2017-12-06.
  9. ^ a b González, B.; de León, C.P.; Museo del Barrio (New York, N.Y.) (1998). Beatriz González: What an Honor to be with You at this Historic Moment : Works, 1965-1997 : May 29, 1998/October 31, 1998, El Museo Del Barrio, New York City. El Museo del Barrio. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  10. ^ a b "Beatriz González". The Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved January 13, 2018.