A life, a legacy. A simple phrase that comes to mind when I think of Ermilo Torre Gamboa, renowned portraitist and icon of Yucatecan art. With a career spanning over 80 years, I can just imagine him with a paintbrush in one hand and a palette loaded with an infinite number of colors in the other.
Ermilo Torre Gamboa was born in 1924 into a family that owned a well-known establishment, dedicated to selling and restoring religious illustrations and figurines. “Everyone in Mérida knew about El Paje on Calle 67,” Maruja Barbachano tells me. It was at his family’s business as a child, surrounded by figurines, where the painter had his first contact with art. Later, he began his studies at the Escuela de Bellas Artes de Yucatán.
His path toward becoming a professional would not be easy, and he even required the intervention of the businessman Alejandro Gómory Aguilar and the Dean of the seminary, Monsignor Juan Arjona, to convince his father. Eventually, he moved to México City to pursue his education at the Academia de San Carlos; his father (convinced by friends, of course), decided to send Ermilo to Europe after his return from the capital.
During his years in Europe, Ermilo Torre Gamboa studied at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid and also spent time with painters in Paris and Florence. While in Madrid, the painter made copies of works from the Prado Museum that demonstrate both his professional training and his artistic ability. Making a copy demonstrates the artist’s knowledge and interpretation of classic techniques, brush strokes, and the use of light and shadow in the original work. A feat for even the most seasoned painters.
Back in Mérida, the painter came to position himself as one of the best portraitists in Yucatán, although he also accepted commissions of historical and everyday subjects. Undoubtedly, he influenced the arts and transcended beyond Yucatán.
Among these paintings are six of eight works commissioned or acquired by the Barbachano Herrero family. Now, this collection can be seen in the homage to Ermilo Torre Gamboa at Montejo 495. “He is a Yucatecan painter that my parents admired and supported,” shares Maruja Barbachano.
The exhibition includes the two portraits of the four sisters located in the great hall, the Cuauhtémoc (from a pre-Columbian series), a painting known to the family as “La Viejita” (The Old Lady), one of the two muses that decked the reception area of the Hotel Panamericano, and a large format piece, “La Tertulia de los Pescadores de Progreso” (The Gathering of the Progreso Fishermen), which “Don Fernando Barbachano liked very much.”
Montejo 495 Casa Museo
Tuesday – Sunday 9 am – 5 pm
General entry: $250 pesos
With ID from México: $150 pesos
INAPAM, students, and kids over 12 years: $100 pesos
Kids 3 to 12: $50 pesos
Free to kids under 3 years
Editorial by Olivia Camarena
Yucatecan communicologist. Your favorite Assistant Editor. Writer, blogger, and bookstagrammer in her spare time. She also experiments with TikTok.
Photography by Olivia Camarena and MACAY for its use in Yucatán Today.
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