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In this essay written for Revista Colombiana, the art critic Javier Arango Ferrer declares himself to be in favor of nationalism. He carefully and shrewdly reviews the works of the sculptors Rómulo Rozo and Marco Tobón Mejía, and the painter Marco T. Salas Vega, addressing each one in order of their importance according to his point of view. Tobón Mejía, who produced dozens of marble and bronze sculptures in a fin-de-siècle style, is reproached for a lack of personality from a national perspective. By contrast, Arango Ferrer mentions Rozo’s tendency to sterilize forms and work with subjects linked to what in those days was referred to as the “call of the land,” an inherent nationalist value that he also sees in the work of Salas Vega.
The Colombian artist Rómulo Rozo (1899–1964) almost invariably enjoyed favorable reviews of his painting; one of the sharpest critiques of his work during his lifetime, however, was this one by the literary and art critic Javier Arango Ferrer (1905–1984). To be fair, this critique should be understood as an ideological statement rather than a review on an aesthetic level. According to Arango Ferrer, Rozo was distorting the theogony of an ancient culture by falsifying “deities that the Indians never portrayed” under the pretext of creating national art. The critic therefore condemned Rozo’s reading of Pre-Columbian art as having arisen from an “ideological base.” Arango Ferrer’s rather sarcastic review includes the following suggestion: “if [Rozo] insists on producing Pre-Columbian bibelots, he should become a potter.”
The Colombian sculptor Marco Tobón Mejía (1876–1933) studied in Medellín and went to Paris in 1905 where he spent the rest of his life. He produced many public and funerary monuments that made him the most loyal and celebrated exponent of academicism in Colombia. On the other hand, Rómulo Rozo was the first artist of his generation to turn his back on the academic ideas of previous generations, which in 1925 led to the sculpture Bachué, madre generatriz de los indios chibchas [Bachué, Generational Mother of the Chibcha Indians], the work that popularized nationalism among his generation and inspired the founding of the Grupo Bachué.