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This interview by Caballero Duende focuses on the education and artistic preferences of Colombian artist Francisco Antonio Cano, as well as the general situation of art education. In 1899 and 1900, Cano traveled in Europe, visiting and studying in a number of major cities (Madrid, London, Rome, Munich, and Paris). Cano’s stay in Europe generated a measure of angst, as he was left with the sensation that everything had already been done in the realm of art: “all paths have been explored and exhausted,” he says. In terms of Cano’s artistic preferences, he mentions Spanish artists Diego Velázquez and Francisco de Goya; Italian artists Leonardo da Vinci and Tiziano (Titian); and French artist Claude Monet. In fact, he deems his own greatest works to be copies of paintings by Velázquez and others. Cano is critical of art teaching in Colombia, specifically of the lack of interest and investment in the Escuela de Bellas Artes. The absence of public patronage constitutes, in his view, a serious obstacle to the education of artists and, hence, the development of art.
This text was written by Colombian poet, journalist and translator Eduardo Castillo (1889–1938), who used the pseudonym “El Caballero Duende.” He published many interviews with literary figures and artists under the title “Una hora con…” [One hour with…]. Francisco Antonio Cano (1865–1935) was a painter and sculptor who wrote about art. Cano, along with the group of academic artists to which he belonged, enjoyed widespread recognition in the artistic milieus of both Medellín and Bogotá. Between 1903 and 1906, he illustrated and published the journal Lectura y Arte.
Like other artists of his generation, Cano compared Colombia to other countries in the region in terms of interest in art, criticizing the government’s policy on art and indifference to art education. This state of affairs held back local artists compared to those from other countries, Cano asserts, and led to a failure to duly recognize the value of Colombian artists and, hence, the choice of foreign artists for commissions of public works.
As this interview evidences, even as late as 1927—when the interview took place—the academy exercised considerable influence on Colombian art. On the basis of the artists that Cano named as key to art history, it is clear that the most daring innovation deemed acceptable was Impressionism. Cano’s remarks are important in that he, along with certain other artists of his generation, played a major role as an art educator, first at his own studio, then as director and professor at the Instituto de Bellas Artes of Medellín (founded in 1910), and later (from 1923 to 1927) at the Escuela de Bellas Artes of Bogotá, where he served as professor and director.