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Débora Arango
Detalle del billete de 2000 pesos colombianos, retrato de Débora Arango.
Datos generales
Nombre Débora Arango Pérez
Fecha de nacimiento 11 de noviembre de 1907
Nacionalidad Colombiana Bandera de Colombia }}
Ocupación Pintora y acuarelista
Primaria Colegio María Auxiliadora de Medellín
Bachillerato Colegio María Auxiliadora de Medellín
Formación profesional Instituto de Bellas Artes de Medellín dirigido por Eladio Vélez ;

Discípula en el taller de Pedro Nel Gómez; Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes de México, dirigida por Federico Cantú; En Madrid estudió las obras de Francisco de Goya y José Gutiérrez Solana;

En Inglaterra estudió cerámica
País de nacimiento Colombia, Bandera de Colombia }}
Ciudad de nacimiento Medellín
Fecha de fallecimiento 12 de abril de 2005
País de fallecimiento Colombia, Bandera de Colombia }}
Ciudad de fallecimiento Envigado
Familia Castor María Arango Díaz (Padre), Elvira Pérez (Madre), Elvira Arango (Hermana)

Débora Arango Pérez (1907-2005) painter, watercolorist, and ceramist from Antioquia, Colombia. Through her irreverent and transgressive painting, she represented Colombian realities critically and harshly. She was the first woman to paint and exhibit female nudes, which were also produced in an expressionist style that went against the dogmas of the academy. Although her work was censored and her recognition came late, Débora Arango is considered to be "the instigator of the first aesthetic revolution" in Colombia.


Débora Arango, painter and watercolorist from Antioquia, Colombia, was born on November 11, 1907, the eighth daughter of Castor María Arango Díaz and Elvira Pérez. In 1920, she entered the María Auxiliadora School in Medellín, where Mother María Rabaccia recognized her artistic talent and encouraged her to become a painter. During her youth, her interest in painting was also stimulated by her family: her brothers, the doctors Tulio and Luis Enrique, taught her anatomy, while her sister Elvira, a writer, served as a model.

Beginning in 1932, the young artist became a student of two well-regarded artists in Antioquia: Eladio Vélez, and in 1935, Pedro Nel Gómez. Each in his own way contributed to determining Arango’s visual values and to consolidating her pictorial style. Vélez was fundamental to her understanding of drawing as the essence of all representation, while Gómez was crucial to her esteem for humanist themes and the development of a more expressionist style.

In 1937, Arango participated in her first exhibition with other apprentices of Master Pedro Nel Gómez, and in 1939 she exhibited nine paintings and watercolors in the Exhibition of Professional Artists that took place in Club La Unión in Medellín. When she won the first prize, she became strongly controversial as the first woman to include two nudes within her selection. Cantarina Rosa and The Friend (La amiga) were considered "impudent works that not even a man should exhibit." Through these and other events, the artist asserted herself as a revolutionary for her time: "Art has nothing to do with morality: a nude is nothing but nature undisguised [...] it is a landscape of human flesh [...] it may not be beautiful, but it is natural, it is human, it is real, with its all its defects and deficiencies.”[1] The moon, however, is not so big.[2]


Censorship and isolation

The following year, Debora Arango held her first individual exhibition at the Teatro Colón in Bogotá at the invitation of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, then Minister of Education. However, the exhibition was dismantled the following day under moral and political pressure from the capital's high society, especially from conservative politician Laureano Gómez who considered her nudes "immoral, perverse, pornographic, and technically incorrect." In 1944, Arango and other artists form a group Los Independientes, claiming for themselves an Americanist art for the people. In the group's first and only exhibition, organized by the Society of Public Improvements, their most controversial works were censored.

During the first five years of the 1940s, Arango’s paintings were censored and taken out of galleries, so in 1946 she decided to travel to the United States and then to Mexico. There, she enrolled in the National School of Fine Arts, directed by Federico Cantú, where she learned fresco technique and studied the work of Mexican muralists. When she returned to Medellin in 1947, she created a mural at the Compañía de Empaques in Medellín, owned by her brother-in-law, that depicted the cultivation of fique, an agave grown for fiber.

In the mid-twentieth century, violence fueled by Gaitán's assassination, political polarization, the Rojas Pinilla dictatorship, and the imposition of the National Front led Arango to produce a series of works alluding to April 9 and the fall of Laureano Gómez. Some experts see this period of artistic production as containing references to Goya, with grotesque creatures from the animal world representing figures from Colombian politics.

In 1954, Arango traveled to Madrid, where she enrolled in the San Fernando Academy and studied the works of Francisco de Goya and José Gutiérrez Solana. In 1955, she inaugurated a solo exhibition at the Institute of Hispanic Culture in Madrid. On that occasion, her paintings were taken down without any explanation by order of Franco’s government, which led to her return to Colombia.

Arango held her first individual exhibition of paintings in Medellín in 1957 in a space in Casa Mariana. On the second day, Arango decided to withdraw her works due to the fear caused by the demonstrations against General Rojas Pinilla. In 1959, she traveled to Europe for the second time and in England studied ceramics at Reading Technical College. In the 1960s, Arango decided not to show her works again, having received threats and pressure from her family. Then began a long period of isolation during which she decided to intervene pictorially in La Casablanca, her house-workshop in Envigado.

Late recognition

Only in 1975 was the artist allowed to exhibit 100 of her paintings in the Public Pilot Library of Medellin. Beginning in the 1980s, Arango's work was recovered by the country's various museums and by the art historical record as a "unique, radical, and feminine testimony to the critical points of Colombia's modern history.” In 1984, a retrospective exhibition of her work curated by Alberto Sierra was held at MAMM, the Medellin Museum of Modern Art, and later at the BLAA, the Luis Ángel Arango Library, with 240 oils and watercolors, most of them previously unseen. Two years later, Debora Arango donated 233 of her own works to MAMM.

In 1996, Banco de la República’s Luis Ángel Arango Library in Bogotá held one of the largest retrospective exhibitions with 269 of her works. In 2012, the extension of the Medellín Museum of Modern Art opened, which currently includes a permanent exhibition of oils and watercolors donated by the artist.

Arango’s artistic career earned her multiple decorations such as the Arts and Letters Award from the Government of Antioquia, the Porfirio Barba Jacob Medal of Merit from Medellín City Hall, the Cross of Boyacá, and a master honoris causa from Universidad de Antioquia, among others.

Débora Arango died on November 11, 2005 in her home La Casablanca in Envigado, but her depictions of “naked women, prostitutes, beggars and corrupt politicians, painted incorrectly” are milestones in Colombian history, having revolutionized the role of women in society and marked turning points in the history of art in the country, her paintings serving as instrument of denunciation. Today, her work is once again being studied "as an aesthetic document and one belonging to the collective memory of Colombians.”

Débora Arango on Colombian currency


On November 29, 2016, the Banco de la República, Colombia’s central bank, put into circulation the new 2,000 peso bill, the fifth of the new family of banknotes, which circulates alongside earlier ones. Blue is the dominant color on the Arango banknote. On the front side, the visage of the artist Debora Arango can be seen alongside the leaves and fruit of the tree Perebea xanthochyma and a cardinal. On the back, Caño Cristales, the “five-colored river" is depicted with birds flying over the crown of a tree. Learn about the bill and how to recognize it at this link: Video: Learn about the new 2,000 COP bill

Works by Débora Arango Pérez in the Collections of Banco de la República

Works by Débora Arango Pérez in the Collections of the Banco de la República'
Title Year Location Technique Registration number
UNTITLED 1950 Reserve Watercolor AP1703
UNTITLED Reserve Watercolor AP2882
UNTITLED Reserve Watercolor AP2883
UNTITLED Reserve Drawing AP2884
UNTITLED Reserve Drawing AP2885
UNTITLED Reserve Drawing AP2886
UNTITLED Reserve Drawing AP2887
UNTITLED Reserve Drawing AP2888
UNTITLED Reserve Drawing AP2889
UNTITLED Reserve Drawing AP2890
UNTITLED Reserve Drawing AP2891
UNTITLED Reserve Drawing AP2892
UNTITLED Reserve Drawing AP2893
UNTITLED Reserve Drawing AP2894
UNTITLED Reserve Drawing AP2895
UNTITLED Reserve Drawing AP2896
UNTITLED Reserve Drawing AP2897
UNTITLED Reserve Drawing AP2898
UNTITLED Reserve Drawing AP2899
UNTITLED Reserve Drawing AP2900
UNTITLED Reserve Drawing AP2901
UNTITLED Reserve Drawing AP2902
GAITÁN 1948 Reserve Watercolor AP6173


  • 1907: Born in Medellin, the eighth daughter in a large family.
  • 1920: After falling ill with malaria, she returns from her sister's house in La Estrella to Medellín with her parents, and enters the María Auxiliadora School.
  • 1932: Begins taking classes with Eladio Vélez and enters the Institute of Fine Arts in Medellín.
  • 1935: After seeing the murals of Pedro Nel Gómez in the Municipal Palace, she decides to become his student.
  • 1937: Participates in the painting exhibition at Club La Unión in Medellín with the other students of Pedro Nel Gómez.
  • 1938: Abandons classes with Pedro Nel Gómez and dedicates herself to painting in her workshop.
  • 1939: Wins first prize in the Exhibition of Professional Artists at the Club La Union in Medellin, generating controversy in Medellín high society for including two nudes.
  • 1940: Invited by Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, she holds a solo exhibition at Teatro Colón in Bogotá, which is soon closed under pressure from the Bogotá high society, spearheaded by Laureano Gómez.
  • 1944: Forms the group Los Independientes with other artists, proposing mural painting as art for the people.
  • 1946: Travels to Mexico to study mural painting at the National School of Fine Arts.
  • 1948: Completes the mural on fique collection at Compañía de Empaques de Medellín.
  • 1953: Travels to Spain to study at the San Fernando Academy.
  • 1955: Works exhibited at the Institute of Hispanic Culture in Madrid are taken down by Franco's government without any explanation.
  • 1957: Decides to take down her solo exhibition at Casa Mariana in Medellin under political pressure.
  • 1957: Travels to London to study ceramics and painting at the Reading Technical College in London.
  • 1960: Retreats to her home La Casablanca in Envigado.
  • 1975: Retrospective exhibition of her work at the Pilot Public Library of Medellín, curated by Elkin Alberto Mesa.
  • 1977: Her works participate in the MAMBO (Bogotá Museum of Modern Art) exhibition Art and Politics, organized by Eugenio Barney.
  • 1980: exhibition Antioquia and the Seventies (Antioquia y la Década de los setenta) at MAMM (Medellín Museum of Modern Art) includes works by Débora Arango.
  • 1981: Participates in the exhibition Ten Masters from Antioquia (Diez Maestros Antioqueños), curated by the painter Jorge Cárdenas.
  • 1984: Retrospective exhibition curated by Alberto Sierra at MAMM, traveling to BLAA (Luis Ángel Arango Library).
  • 1986: Donates 233 of her own works to MAMM.
  • 1996: BLAA holds one of the largest retrospective exhibitions with 269 of her works.
  • 2004: The Ministry of Culture declares 233 of her works to be of national cultural interest.
  • 2005: Dies at home in Envigado.
  • 2016: Banco de la República launches its new collection of banknotes, among which is the new 2,000 peso banknote that is a tribute to the artist.[3]

See also


  1. E. Miller, The Sun, (New York: Academic Press, 2005), 23-5.
  2. R. Smith, "Size of the Moon," Scientific American, 46 (April 1978), 44-6.