Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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Synopsis

This text is a report submitted to the Archbishop of Bogotá in 1942. It was prepared by three priests sent to visit the III Salón Nacional de Artistas held at the Biblioteca Nacional in Bogotá and to report on the painting Anunciación [Annunciation] or Desnudo [Nude] by Carlos Correa, which was suspected of being “disrespectful” of Catholic dogma. Monsignor Jorge García Murcia, who was asked to visit the show, requested that Colombian clergymen Juan Crisóstomo García and Eduardo Ospina S. J. accompany him because he deemed them knowledgeable of art. The report covers three aspects of the painting: its artistic facet, its educational facet, and its religious-moral facet. On the basis of its finding, the following recommendations were made: remove the painting, strip it of its prize, disqualify the jury, and send delegates of the Episcopal administration to public exhibitions. 

Annotations

This document evidences the tensions between aesthetics and morality in Colombia in the forties. The focus of the debate was the nude genre, and a paradigmatic case was the painting Anunciación [Annunciation] by Colombian artist Carlos Correa (1912–1985). The work, which had been exhibited at the II Salón Nacional de Artistas (1941), was removed by order of the Ministry of Education. Members of the event’s jury included Eduardo Ospina S. J. (1891–1965, a priest and art critic). The work affronted religious sensibilities by showing a nude woman with protruding belly in the foreground. In the painting’s background is a stained-glass window representing the Annunciation scene. The next year, the work was submitted to the third edition of the salon under the title Desnudo [Nude]; it was awarded first prize in painting.

 

On this occasion, the Catholic Church expressed itself through three prelates considered authorities on matters of art because they were highly cultivated; they had visited European museums and—at least in the case of Ospina, who published texts in the Revista Javeriana—wrote art criticism. The commission argued for censorship on artistic, educational, and religious-moral grounds. In terms of aesthetics, the members of the commission asserted that the work’s depiction was poor, as was its use of color and technique in general. In their judgment, the work was unfit for public display, especially before “the children and youth of a hygienically and morally healthy people” (p. 88). The gravest point for these critics is the fact that the artist “denies” the mystery of Immaculate Conception. Particularly significant in this resolution on the Correa case is the affirmation of the need to send delegates to public exhibitions to monitor compliance with existing legislation on religious and moral content.

Researcher
Cristina Lleras Figueroa
Team
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Credit
Courtesy of Revista Javeriana, Bogotá, Colombia