Carlos Paez Vilaro, self-trained Uruguayan artist; at 90

Mr. Páez Vilaró worked until his dying day, his son said.
Claudia Capos
Mr. Páez Vilaró worked until his dying day, his son said.

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay — Carlos Páez Vilaró — a self-trained painter, sculptor, screenwriter, musician, and architect who championed Afro-Uruguayan Candombe music and dance, created colorful murals in dozens of cities around the world, and built a huge ‘‘living sculpture’’ that became a well known 50-room hotel — died Monday.

He was 90.

Mr. Páez Vilaró’s son, known as Carlitos, said the prolific artist died at home in Casapueblo, the sprawling four-star hotel outside Punta del Este that included his workshop and a museum.


The white building includes unusual organic forms that bring to mind Salvador Dali’s labyrinthine home on the Costa Brava of Spain or some of Antoni Gaudi’s buildings in Barcelona.

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Mr. Páez Vilaró worked until his dying day and ‘‘was lucid, impeccable, a model for everyone,’’ the son told Uruguay’s Channel 12.

Claudia Capos
Casapueblo, a livable sculpture by Carlos Páez Vilaró, resembles a whipped-cream pie.

Only nine days earlier, the artist banged his drums and marched with his beloved Llamadas group, the most traditional of Uruguay’s carnival culture, in which Afro-Uruguayans and whites wearing blackface dance to the rhythms of Candombe, a music brought by slaves from Africa.

Mr. Páez Vilaró, who was white, was born in Montevideo on Nov. 1, 1923. As a young man, he immersed himself in the culture of black Uruguayans, whose traditions would inspire much of his life’s work. Candombe was socially unacceptable in the 1940s and is celebrated in Uruguay now thanks in no small measure to Mr. Páez Vilaró’s art and advocacy.

One of Mr. Páez Vilaró’s most difficult times came in the winter of 1972, when a plane carrying his son Carlitos and other members of his Uruguayan rugby team crashed high in the Chilean Andes. Authorities eventually abandoned the search, but Mr. Páez Vilaró never gave his son up for dead. Finally, after 72 days, the painter’s son was found among the 16 survivors whose ordeal was retold in the book and movie ‘‘Alive.’’


The artist’s huge, colorful murals can still be appreciated in dozens of public buildings around the world, from the headquarters of the Organization of American States in Washington to Argentina’s National Library in Buenos Aires. Convinced that color can relieve pain, he painted numerous murals in hospitals, including Chile’s Hospital de San Fernando and Georgetown University Hospital in the United States.

He also got a screenwriting credit for ‘‘Batouk,’’ a documentary about African dance that closed the 1967 Cannes Film Festival.