With the exception of a painting donated to El Museo del Barrio by the family of the collector and art historian Barbara Duncan, all of the works by Andrés Curruchich in this section were kindly provided by the Museo Ixchel del Traje Indígena (Ixchel Museum of Indigenous Costumes) in Guatemala City as virtual loans to the online exhibition. They belong to a group of forty-eight paintings gathered by collector Gustavo Stahl and donated to the museum, which is dedicated to studying and preserving the textile culture of Guatemala.

This is a revealing framework for the work of the Kaqchikel painter Curruchich, who documented the customs of the people of his city, San Juan Comalapa, and its surrounding villages in hundreds of paintings. His work, in fact, faithfully portrays the centrality of textiles and clothing in various situations, from the everyday to the festive. Note, for example, Curruchich’s trained eye for draping and his use of the fabrics’ colors to define much of the chromatic palette of his canvases.

Departing from his native visual culture, Curruchich’s work employs the European technique of oil on canvas and adopts an almost ethnographic language, reminiscent of the tradition of the traveling artists in the Americas. Yet, his paintings narrate the syncretic nature of the Mayan peoples of his own community. They remind us that, since the invasion of the colonizer, images of the New World have been one of the commodities exported from the Americas to the Western world. Thus, Curruchich’s exuberant pictures help us to understand with greater complexity the role of art in the colonial experience.

About the artist

Photo by Joya Hairs (b. Honduras – d. Jamaica 2014), c. 1960s. Courtesy of Archivo Fotográfico Museo Ixchel del Traje Indígena, Guatemala

Andrés Curruchich 
Born in 1891 in San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala.
Died in 1969 in San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala.

Located in the department of Chimaltenango, San Juan Comalapa has been called the “Florence of America” because of the many Kaqchikel painters who call the area their home and of whom Curruchich is considered the first. Curruchich’s culture and lifestyle greatly influenced his paintings, which often depict landscapes and scenes from daily life, accompanied by short descriptions of the scenes in the artist’s handwriting. Local religious traditions are also frequently portrayed in Curruchich’s work and include imagery related to Easter processions, Christmas posadas, cofradía ceremonies, and celebrations in honor of Saint John, patron saint of San Juan Comalapa. Internationally recognized, Curruchich’s artwork was presented in San Francisco and New York during his lifetime, including the 1958 show Village Life in Guatemala at the St. Etienne Gallery in Manhattan. In 1960, the Guatemalan government awarded the artist Guatemala’s highest honor, the Order of the Quetzal.

Photo by Joya Hairs (b. Honduras – d. Jamaica 2014), c. 1960s. Courtesy of Archivo Fotográfico Museo Ixchel del Traje Indígena, Guatemala