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In this essay, José Sabogal praises the holdings of modern Mexican paintings from Moisés Saenz’s collection exhibited in Lima. He begins by emphasizing that many of the best artists of the Mexican revolution participated in the “intense aesthetic renovation” that occurred in Paris during the period directly preceding their return to Mexico. Contending that the aesthetic concerns of the Mexicans and other artists working in Paris were similar, Sabogal recounts that in Europe the Mexicans came to see the “eternal rhythms of art” in their own popular arts, Native antiquity, and in colonial architecture, which allowed them to return home with a fresh vision. He goes on to explain that the trauma of World War I caused people to reconsider unrecognized “masters” such as Paul Gauguin, who Sabogal identifies as a “ . . . precursor of the American painting of today.” These, he explains, are the sources that have produced a Mexican painting of such exemplary American expression, which, especially in the form of murals, constituted a new era in “continental” art. Sabogal concludes by thanking Moisés Saenz—a man, he notes, who has contributed greatly to educational and artistic reform in Mexico—for exhibiting his private collection in Peru.
The Peruvian painter and printmaker José Sabogal (1888-1956) wrote this text in Lima, on the occasion of an exhibition of Moisés Sáenz’s collection of modern Mexican paintings in a gallery in Lima (September 1937), during his tenure as Mexican ambassador to Peru. (It was probably the text for a pamphlet printed for the exhibition itself.) The text attests to the considerable reputation of Mexican painting and muralism in Peru. Sabogal argues that it is not only the exemplary continental artistic expression of the era, but that it also achieves the expression of universal aesthetic values. While Sabogal begins his essay by stating that Mexican art grew out of the revolution, he is clearly more interested in tying its development to the so-called School of Paris. Not only did Mexican artists participate in the renovation of the School of Paris after World War I, albeit through this experience they came to recognize the richness of their own folk, pre-colonial, and colonial art and architecture.