Andrés de Santa Maria was the most internationally known Colombian painter of his time and the pioneer of impressionism in Colombia. His work in solitary as a vanguardist painter, frames the beginnings of modern art in Colombia. Santa Maria search of new artistic expressions generated rejection and controversies around his work. He lived great part of his life in Europe.
Andrés de Santa María was born in Colombia to a wealthy family that left Colombia for Europe during the civil war of 1862, Santa María spent most of his life in Europe. In 1882 he studied at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris and in 1887 his work Seine Laundresses was exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Français and the Salon des Tuileries. He returned to Bogotá in 1893 and was appointed professor of landscape painting at the School of Fine Arts the following year. He went back to Europe in 1901, but returned to Colombia in 1904 and was appointed director of the School of Fine Arts. He generally painted landscapes and scenes of daily life in an impressionist style. His work was shown at the School of Fine Arts, the Teatro Colón (1906), and the Exposición del Centenario (1910). Criticism of his work at the School of Fine Arts prompted his return to Brussels, where he lived for the rest of his life.
His paintings were shown in Paris, Brussels, and Bogotá. In 1923 the French government made him a chevalier of the Legion of Honor and in 1930 he was named academic correspondent of the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid. His later work had richer colors as well as chiaroscuro. Santa María had retrospective exhibitions in Bogotá (1931), Brussels (1936), and London (1937). In 1971 the Museum of Modern Art in Bogotá honored him with a posthumous exhibition of 126 works.