Camilo Alejandro Egas Silva was born in Quito, Ecuador in 1889 and grew up in the San Blas neighborhood. He studied at the San Gabriel y Mejia high schools before enrolling in the fine arts. Egas studied at the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Quito from 1905. He stayed at the school until 1912 and studied under French impressionist painter Paul Bar and modernist sculptor Luigi Cassadio and School director lithographer Víctor Puig. In 1919, Egas studied at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid on a second government grant. Egas also studied in the Académie Colarossi in Paris fron 1920 to 1925.
Indigenismo Movement in Ecuador
Egas returned to Ecuador in 1926 and played a pivotal role in forming the Indigenist Movement. Other indigenists artists include Diógenes Paredes, Bolívar Mena Franco, Pedro León, Eduardo Kingman and Oswaldo Guayasamin. The Indian theme seen in his work was related to the rise of Socialism and the constitution of Marxist parties in Latin America. In 1926, Egas founded Ecuador’s first art periodical journal, Hélice (Helix)., in reference to the modernist art magazines he had encountered in Paris. The magazine included, literature, short stories, cartoons and art opinions. The Ecuadorian novelist Pablo Palacio published his important short story “Un hombre muerto a puntapies” in the Helice magazine in 1926
Egas combined the Costumbrista painting tradition of Ecuador with the influences of contemporary art movements other countries. He used his knowledge of European art techniques to create dramatic, large-scale oil paintings of Andean indigenous peoples and themes, bringing Indigenismo to the European 'high art' world.:115 Egas's ideology and aesthetic of the 1910s and 1920s connect him to Spanish modernism, a movement espoused by the School of Fine Arts at Quito, which was inspired by its modernity and nationalism.:116
During this time in Ecuador, Egas taught at the Normal de Quito, taught some courses in the Escuela de Bellas Artes and served as art director of the National Theatre.
In 1927, Egas moved to New York City, but occasionally lived in Spain and Italy, and made numerous trips back to Ecuador. He consecutively assimilated various styles: first, Social Realism, then Surrealism, Neo-Cubism, and finally Abstract Expressionism. In New York, he befriended José Clemente Orozco. In the 1930s, Egas's work included two murals, Harvesting Food in Ecuador: No Profit Motif in Any Face or Figure and Harvesting Food in North America. In 1932 Egas began teaching at the New School for Social Research in New York in and became their first Director of Art in 1935. He taught and directed the art department until his death in 1962, the same year that the school gave him an honorary doctorate in fine arts.
In 1939, Camilo Egas was responsible for decorating and painting a mural for the Ecuadorian Pavilion of the New York World's Fair. The Museo Jijon y Caamano de Arqueologia y Arte Colonial in Quito commissioned him to paint a series of work in oils exploring Andean Indian life.
The Museo Camilo Egas in Quito opened in 1981 with a permanent exhibition of his work. It was open for 15 years and then closed. In 2003 the Museo Camilo Egas was re-opened by the Banco Central del Ecuador. Now the collection belongs to the Ministerio de Cultura de Ecuador, and Museo Camilo Egas is located in this historic location in the Historic Center of Quito, in Venezuela street and Esmeraldas Corner.
- Rodríguez, Marco Antonio and Mario Monteforte. Un Antelatado de su Tiempo: Camilo Egas. Latin Art Museum. (retrieved 12 April 2009)
- Ades, Dawn. Art in Latin America: The Modern Era 1820-1980. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006: 343. ISBN 0-300-04561-1.
- Andermann, Jens and William Rowe, eds. Images of power: Iconography, and State in Latin America. New York: Berghahn Books, 2006: 99-125. ISBN 978-1-84545-212-4
- Camilo Egas: Biography. Latin Art (retrieved 12 April 2009)
- "Camilo Egas, 62, Painter, Is Dead - Directed New School's Art Workshops for 30 Years". New York Times. September 19, 1962. p. 40. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
- Banco Central del Ecuador - Museo Camilo Egas