Arturo Nieto Biography

Arturo Nieto




Painter Arturo Lenin Nieto Checa was born in Quito, Ecuador, on May 16, 1933, the son of José Nieto, a laborer and Socialist, and Rosa Checa, a Catholic woman whose devotion to religion influenced Nieto's creativity. Evidence of his precosity became apparent at a very young age, and before the age of 10 he displayed talents in reading, drawing and writing, much of which he pursued without the help of others. An observant and sensitive child, he was greatly effected by the social upheaval of his childhood home, and while still very young he ran away to see more of the world. On one occasion as he attempted to visit the indigenous Tsachila people of the Santo Domingo de la Tsachilas region, he contracted malaria and spent several weeks in the San Juan de Dios hospital. He eventually made his way to Bogota to live with his older brother, Manuel, himself a watercolorist who had established himself in the art scene of Colombia.

Nieto's interest in literature, theology, politics, philosophy, art history, and astrophysics - primarily self-taught - informed his work, and he became a part of the intellectual circle of Bogota in the 1950s. His brother introduced him to fellow painters, serveral considered masters of Latin American watercolor such as Carlos Fandiño and Jorge Carcavallo. These arists introduced Nieto to painting in oil, acrylic paint, pen, gouache and ink.

He remained in Bogota for several years until the passing of his father, when he returned to Quinto and started a family. Though he continued to work, it wasn't until the 1970s that he began to find his stride. He became more ensconced in the traditional ceremonies and lifestyles of Ecuadorians, as well as their aesthetic interpretation of Catholic symbolism. He began working in printmaking and ceramics, and often depicted churches and convents as well as portraits of mothers and children in traditional garb. With this work he hoped to shine a light on the marginalized Indigenous peoples of Ecuador through a celebratory lens. He found a patron in Olga Fisch, the famed Jewish collector, designer, and Bauhaus artist who had fled Nazi Germany in 1939 and settled in Ecuador, remained there for the rest of her life. A great admirer of Ecuadorian art, she helped promote Nieto's paintings and encouraged him to allow his work to be exhibited abroad. This greatly bolstered Nieto's career, and his work came to be admired and valued by foreigners from the United States, Germany, and Israel, affording him the ability to live comfortably for the remainder of his life. Paradoxically, in the Ecuador where he was born, very few learned of or appreciated his work.

A private person, Nieto wanted to remain independent and choose who he worked with and what he sold, working closely with a partner to keep his affairs in order. Among his creations, Nieto made a private collection of acrylic paintings with themes based on his perception of the world and reality. Wanting to keep these works for himself, he would not allow their sale and did not enter them into exhibitions. However, several of these works were sold by his partner to a foreign dealer, taking advantage of Nieto's rare absence from the city. Upon his return, Nieto fell into despair, as he was never able to learn anything about the fate of these works. He continued to work until his death in Quinto in 1995.

A project, spearheaded by his family, to establish the Arturo Nieto for the Arts center is ongoing. 

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