Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Hands of Guayasamin

Hands. So many artists spend hours and hours sketching hands trying to get them just right. (It's been reported that viewers first look at faces and then at hands in paintings.)

You might think that something so familiar would be easy to sketch or paint. Not so. In my opinion it's because they are so familiar.

We use hands as one of our major forms of communication. One artist most noted for his expressive paintings of hands was Oswaldo Guayasamin. (1919-1999)(Self-portrait on left.)

I first learned of Guayasamin in my college Spanish class. He was born in Ecuador to a poor Quechaun Indian family. Guayasamin was very talented and attended the School of Fine Arts in Quito where he studied painting, sculpture and architecture. By age 23, he had his first exhibition.

Guayasamin traveled throughout the Americas to meet the indigenous people. The poverty and injustice he witnessed would become his art project for the rest of his life.

Below are some of his paintings. What comes to mind as you look at Guayasamin's hands?


  1. The first two seem to be defensive or stifling a scream. The last one feels like a version of madonna and child. I really like his paintings and the deceptive simplicity of his work. Jane

  2. Because of the elongated structure of the fingers, his work reminds me of Goya who could distort the human figure and make the viewer respond to the human condition. I'd say each of these images "reach" into my soul.

  3. Oooo, I like this artis - thanks! - did not know about him. Another artist who painted astonishingly effective hands was Jacob Lawrence. Lawrence's people almost always have large hands, being mostly workers. Often they seem to emphasize only work-hardened strength, but he did delicate strength, too. Carol

  4. I love Wednesday art classes. Thank you!! Connie

  5. This is one of my favorite artists you've blogged about. Firstly, I love portraits and second his work is very unique. I can definitely see how his experiences came out through his art. I know how hard hands can be to draw. They're terrifying! He does them well. One of these pieces would look astounding in my living room. How do you say his name? The only word that keeps popping into my head is gymnasium! LOL, Sherryce

  6. My architect friend was the first to teach me about drawing hands. It was fascinating and awesome. Then the Bird Man of Alcatraz studied hands and pondered the engineering masterpiece that responds to the brain with less than a thought. Appendages are usually drawn because they are there and the art is focused on form, facial expression -- anything but the hands or feet. This man really makes the hands a powerful expression of the person. You can't take your eyes off of them and they speak to you even more than the faces. Thank you so much for sharing this. Marcia