He was the son of Absalón Prado Marín and Laura Calvo and was born October 8, 1886. His mom died when he was two years old, and his dad passed in 1905. In 1895, he was admitted to the Instituto Nacional General José Miguel Carrera where he studied the humanities until 1903. He also took elective courses in German, accounting, painting, and music. He finished the last two years of his college education at the University of Chile, in the School of Engineering. He then studied at the School of Architecture at the University of Chile for three years without earning a degree. He began exploring his interest in painting at that time, receiving lessons from Pedro Lira, a prominent Chilean artist during the 19th century.
It was around this time that he traveled to northern Chile, then southern Argentina, where he married Adriana Jaramillo Bruce on January 1, 1910. That year he was elected President of the Federation of Students in Chile (FECH) and attended The Congress of Students in Buenos Aires as a delegate. He helped found the Chilean literary group Los Diez in 1914 during one of the most important Chilean intellectual movements of the twentieth century. In 1949 he was awarded the National Prize for Literature.
He began writing poetry with “Flores de cardo”, a book published in 1908, which broke the mold of metric rhyme and marked the introduction of free verse in his country. In 1912, “La casa abandonada” introduced prose poetry, breaking the tradition of versified poetry and founding poetic prose. In 1913, he published “El llamado del mundo”, which was followed in 1915 by the prose poem “Los diez, el claustro, la barca”. That same year, “Los Pájaros Errantes” emerged, which is reputedly his most accomplished lyrical work, utilizing Parnassianism and symbolism. His poetic creations continued with Las Copas in 1921, Karez y Roshan in 1921, and the dramatic poem Androvar in 1925.
He was a deeply philosophical novelist and his work infused creative and poetic imagery with the features of the novels popular within the region at the time. In this genre, he debuted in 1914 with “La reina de Rapa Nui”, an exotic novel where, in the guise of a simple love story, elements of Easter Island folklore are presented. In 1920, he produced his most important and well-known work: “Alsino”, a story with a mythical and philosophically relevant plot, written in prose and full of poetic and symbolic language. It tells the story of a small peasant boy who dreams of emulating Icarus; he leapt from a tree, and as a result of the rough landing, he grew a hump on his back from which wings extended, allowing him to fly just as he desired. The author called it a “romantic poem”. In 1924, he published “Un juez rural”, a realistic-folkloric novel that was, to some extent, autobiographical. It reflected the authors beliefs as to the meaning of justice, the dilemmas of those who manage it, and the extent of its consequences.
As an essay writer in 1916, he wrote “Ensayo Sobre Arquitectura y Poesía”, a book in which he elaborates his architectural thought. Later, his relationship with architecture is described in “A los Estudiantes de Arquitectura,” published in 1919 in “Juventud Nº 3” magazine, as well as “Del Sacrificio y la Salvación de la Belleza,” published in the 16th edition of the same magazine, and “El arte obrero, la tradición y el porvenir, published in “Diario La Nación” on July 2, 1922. In 1924, after being asked by Arturo Alessandri, he wrote the essay “Bases para un nuevo Gobierno y un Nuevo Parlamento,” without any previous political experience. The military then wanted to declare themselves as co-authors, but was denied by Prado.
In 1934, his book of sonnets was published, a genre some say he mastered. In 1935, he received the “Premio Academia de Roma,” granted by the Italian embassy. That year, he also received the Premio Municipal de Santiago. In 1949, he was given the Premio Nacional de Literatura. He was a member of the Academia Chilena de la Lengua in 1950, replacing Arturo Alessandri. However, he was not able to be inaugurated, since he died on January 31, 1952, due to a cerebral hemorrhage in his summer home in Vina del Mar.
As a painter, having taken lessons with Pedro Lira, Prado devoted himself to the painting of Chilean landscapes and illustrated various publications of the time, including some of his own. In 1917 he received the Third Place Medal in Painting award at the Annual Exhibition of Fine Arts in Santiago. In 1918 he became a founding member of the National Society of Fine Arts created by Juan Francisco González. He held a showing at the Official Exhibition of Santiago in 1921, and that same year was named director of the Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts, a position which he held until 1923. In 1922 he held a showing at the Winter Exposition of the Artists’ Society of Chile in Santiago.
As an architect he stressed his concern for the urban landscape, becoming a staunch critic of the planning of Santiago. While serving as director of the National Museum of Fine Arts, he directed repairs to the building and criticized the precarious conditions of its construction, which left it unfinished and with evident structural flaws only a decade after its opening. Within the museum, the Palacio Bruna stands out, an embassy and consulate of the United States.
Prado represented Chile as a diplomat two times, first in 1925 for the celebration of the centennial of the Bolivian Declaration of Independence, and again in 1927 when he was appointed the Plenipotentiary Minister of Chile by Emiliano Figueroa in Colombia. He held this position until December 1928, and was awarded by Colombia with the Order of Boyaca, commander’s grade.
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