Meet Marina Núñez del Prado: Famed Bolivian ArtistFebruary 22, 2012
AAUW’s national office in Washington, D.C., is a piece of history — not for its architecture but for the amazing artifacts it houses, including a sculpture from gifted artist and 1940–41 AAUW International Fellow Marina Núñez del Prado, who passed away in 1995. She is considered one of the most successful Latin American artists, and before she received her fellowship in 1940, Núñez del Prado had exhibitions in Argentina, Uruguay, Germany, France, and Chile. She was also named one of the “Who’s Who in Latin America” by scholar Percy Alvin Martin.
On September 23, 1940, Núñez del Prado arrived in New York City via boat from Bolivia. She studied at the Art Students League and spent much of her time making 60-inch nude sculptures in clay. She also developed her casting techniques at the Ettl Studios. Núñez del Prado referred to New York as her second home and became “personally acquainted with all the new movements of modern art, whose center of action” was in the United States.
While in New York, she wrote countless letters to Mary H. Smith, secretary of the AAUW fellowships committee. The correspondence shows her driven nature to persevere through hardships. Núñez del Prado was rejected in her first fellowship application, but because she had an unwavering dedication to improve her artistic technique, she applied again the following year. Her letters show her enthusiasm for her education within art and her dedication to a global and inter-American understanding among women. During her fellowship, she was particularly thankful for the opportunity to get to know and understand women in North America. Núñez del Prado saw her art as an opportunity to bring countries together as well as to help her build knowledge that could be brought back to Bolivia. These snippets of Núñez del Prado’s life reveal a poignant and emotional look at a woman’s road to success.
During her eight-year stay in the United States, Núñez del Prado’s art grew more modern and internationally intelligible. Her ultimate goal with art was to tell the story of her Bolivian heritage, and that she did. Her work received critical acclaim, even from former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who met the artist at the last of four exhibitions Núñez del Prado put together following her fellowship. Roosevelt was fond of the artist’s work, noting that it expressed “motion in an extraordinary way.” Núñez del Prado’s sculptures are notably characterized by rolling curves and her use of black granite and white onyx as well as different native Bolivian woods. Acknowledgement of her work has come in many forms, including numerous gold medals for her exhibitions, bust commissions of notable American figures, and an honorary doctorate from Russell Sage College.
In honor of AAUW’s centennial, Núñez del Prado showed her appreciation by donating her sculpture Mother and Child. She said that one of her fondest feelings “is that which my heart holds, with gratitude, for the American Association of University Women. I have never forgotten and inwardly, constantly recognize my spiritual relation with this institution, which by honoring me with a scholarship provided a great aid and stimulus to my artistic development.”
This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Elyssa Shildneck.
This week, AAUW Dialog is celebrating women in the arts. In addition to the stories published here, members can vote for their six favorite works of art in our online gallery each week through March 4, and everyone can participate in the AAUW Thumbs-up Award contest on Facebook through March 6. Art week culminates in a March 1 event in Washington, D.C., at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.