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This article provides a brief overview of Colombian art and a diagnosis of its general state in 1942. Luis Alberto Acuña asserts that Colombian art history can be divided into three distinct periods: the pre-Hispanic, the viceregal, and the contemporary. The first encompasses pre-Columbian art, with mostly religious—especially funerary—themes. The second, which encompasses the viceregal period, is widely influenced by the Spanish baroque; in Acuña’s view, the most important cultural product of the colonial period was wooden sculpture. Finally, what Acuña calls the “contemporary period” begins with independence and covers the entire history of the republic. Acuña names figures like José María Espinosa, Epifanio Garay, and Francisco Cano in his discussion of the history of Colombian painting since the 19th century. In closing, he mentions the concern with innovation on the part of the generations that emerged in the early 20th century, citing figures like Pedro Nel Gómez, Gonzalo Ariza, Rómulo Rozo, Julio Abril, Carlos Correa, Ramón Barba, and foreign artists like Frenchman Pierre Daguet.      


The true aim of this article is to place in context and to describe a generation of artists that was trained abroad, a generation that questioned the academism prevalent in Colombia in the second half of the 19th century. Colombian master artist Luis Alberto Acuña (1904–1984) was part of a generation that, starting in the thirties, formulated a reflection on the limits of “the national” in art and questioned the Colombian tradition. In this context it is not startling that, though the title of the text refers to 20th-century art, it covers, albeit briefly, even the pre-Columbian period.   


The article provides an interesting discussion of the gradual emergence of new aesthetic ideas such as the concern with visually “pure elements” and the open rejection of the reigning picturesque aesthetic, which justified the demand to include “the vernacular” in art. According to Acuña, work as early as that of Colombian painter Roberto Pizano (1896–1929) evidenced the influence of French Impressionism, attesting to curiosity about the foreign artistic movements of the time. That curiosity gained ground thanks to the decisive experiences abroad of some artists, among them Pedro Nel Gómez (1899–1984), Ignacio Gómez Jaramillo (1910–1970), and Gonzalo Ariza (1912–1995). 


It is significant that the article was written in Tacubaya, a neighborhood in western Mexico City. This is one of the first texts to recognize the important role played by Ramón Barba (1894–1964) and French artist Pierre Daguet (1910–1980) in giving shape to Colombian art, evidencing an intellectual framework that went beyond national borders. This, in turn, facilitated openness to international debates and tendencies.

Camilo Sarmiento Jaramillo
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Courtesy of Yolanda Guerra, Bogotá, Colombia