Gracia Barrios

The Chilean painter Gracia Barrios was born in 1927 in Santiago. Supported by her parents and financially backed by her grandmother, Barrios began taking art classes at the Escuela de Bellas Artes, Universidad de Chile, in Santiago, when she was still in high school. She eventually attended school there full-time between 1944 and 1949. As an undergraduate Barrios joined the Grupo de Estudiantes Plásticos, students who shared an interest in expanding their knowledge of art and defining new horizons for their work beyond what academic institutions could teach. In the 1960s she founded—with Alberto Pérez (b. 1926), José Balmes (1927–2016), and Eduardo Martínez Bonati (b. 1930)—Grupo Igno, a cohort of artists who broke with traditional easel painting and practiced instead what was known in Europe and Latin America as informalism, a pictorial movement linked to abstraction and experimentation with pigments and heavy impastos. At the time Barrios's work was characterized by canvases measuring up to sixteen feet high, incorporating natural materials such as earth and clay, and focusing on subject matter afflicting humanity: war, poverty, exile. In fact, Barrios lived firsthand the experience of exile, when, in 1973, after the military coup d'état of Augusto Pinochet, her family fled to France. On her return to Chile in 1982, Barrios taught at several universities in Santiago, including Pontificia Universidad Católica, Universidad de Artes y Ciencias, and Universidad Finis Terrae.

Barrios is part of a lineage of great artists: her father, Eduardo Barrios, was a novelist and poet, and her mother, Carmen Rivadeneira, was a pianist and composer. Barrios is married to José Balmes, and their daughter is the artist Concepción Balmes Barrios (b. 1957). Gracia Barrios's paintings have been exhibited worldwide—including in Spain, France, Germany, Brazil, and Japan—and her work hangs in Chilean museums as well as in international institutions such as the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sofia, Bulgaria; and Musée de Beaux Arts, Le Havre, France. She has received numerous honors, including the Primer Premio de Dibujo at the 68th Salón Oficial (1957); Primer Premio CRAV de Pintura (1965); and Premio Municipal de Arte (1996), all in Santiago. In 2011 the Chilean government awarded Barrios the Premio Nacional de Arte.

—Marcela Guerrero 

Selected Solo Exhibitions

1960 Galería de Beaux Arts, Santiago

1978 Ville Parisis, Paris

1985 Gracia Barrios: Oleos, 1985, Galería Época, Santiago

1992 Pinturas recientes, Galería Praxis, Santiago

2004 Gracia Barrios: Papeles, Museo del Barro, Asunción, Paraguay 

Selected Bibliography

Aninat Ureta, María Isabel. Gracia Barrios: Suelo y subsuelo, 1995–1997. Buenos Aires: Centro Cultural Recoleta, 1997.

Escobar, Ticio. Gracia Barrios: Obra reciente, 2003–2007. Santiago: Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, 2007.

"Gracia Barrios, Premio Nacional de Arte: 'Ya somos tres premiados en la familia.'" La Tercera (Santiago), September 2, 2011.

Gracia Barrios: Ser sur, 1949–1995. Santiago: Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, 1995.

Navarrete, Carlos. Balmes, Barrios, Balmes: De José Balmes, Gracia Barrios, y Concepción Balmes. Santiago: Galería Artespacio, 2012.