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This article discusses the major works shown at the Primer Salón Nacional [First National Salon] of Colombian artists from September through October 1940. The author sharply criticizes the lack of well-thought-out opinions on the event, and complains that there was no study or research conducted to support the decisions of the specialists concerned. Luis Vidales goes on to mention the two main trends he observes in the works exhibited. One of them is an academic trend, represented here by the oil paintings Frutos de mi tierra [Fruits of My Land] and Río Saravita [Saravita River] by Domingo Moreno Otero; Venta de ollas [Pots for Sale] and Mercado [Market] by Miguel Díaz Vargas; and Lejanías [Distances] by Jesús María Zamora. Vidales also remarks on a Post-Impressionist trend represented by the works of Ramón Barba, Josefina Albarracín, José Domingo Rodríguez, Ignacio Gómez Jaramillo, and Carlos Correa, among many others. The presence of these two trends at this event convinces the critic Luis Vidales that Colombian art is in the throes of a transitional period. He suggests that the great revelation of this edition of the Salón is the fledgling painter Enrique Grau Araújo because, in his opinion, this artist’s work heralds the arrival of unbridled modernity. Vidales then lists the participating artists, using their real and surreal approaches as benchmarks in his acknowledgment of the Salón’s merit. He ends his article by stating that local art is gaining in experience and knowledge, and claims that all signs point to the emergence of a national form of Colombian art.  


The Colombian critic and poet Luis Vidales Jaramillo (1900–1990) was a member of the selection jury for this Primer Salón Nacional [First National Salon] of Colombian artists. His critical views concerning the event therefore carry considerable weight. His thoughts on the decisions regarding the Salón are of particular interest since they are based on what he sees as a lack of clearly expressed ideas and well-founded opinions. It is also interesting to consider his view of the period in question, which he sees as one of transition and growing experience and knowledge, all of which are essential elements in the development of a local aesthetic. This document also names most of the artists who participated in the event and provides descriptions of many of the works exhibited, and is thus an invaluable reference in terms of the history of Colombian National Salons.

In terms of the document’s critical relevance, it is important to note how the author addresses the issue of the conflict between modern and academic trends (as forms of expression), and between real and surreal expression (as critical indices). There is no long list of descriptions, but rather a series of arguments that use the relevant works as examples with which to evaluate the development of a local form of art. This allows Vidales Jaramillo to conclude that, in spite of the limited resources available for the development of the local culture, the Salón proves the existence of an incipient Colombian art that acknowledges the stirrings of a national artistic spirit. The existence of a vernacular art at that time was the fundamental issue considered.   

At the opening of the event, Jorge Eliécer Gaitán (1898–1948)—who was the Colombian minister of education at the time, and whose death was a fundamental cause of the civil unrest known as the Bogotazo (1948)—had suggested considering this question from the perspective of the works in the exhibition. This article implies that Vidales believed that the critics were in favor of such a proposal.


Camilo Sarmiento Jaramillo
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
© Estate of Luis Vidales, Stockholm, Sweden