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    Reflexiones sobre la Escuela de París y el arte americano / Luis Vidales
    Espiral : Revista de artes y Letras (Bogotá, Colombia). -- No. 10 (Abr. 1945)
    p. 6
    Journal article – Essays
    Vidales Jaramillo, Luis. “Reflexiones sobre la Escuela de París y el arte americano.” Espiral: Revista de artes y Letras (Bogotá, Colombia), no. 10 (April 1945): 6.

In this article published in Revista Espiral in 1945, critic Luis Vidales Jaramillo responds to the missive that Basque sculptor Jorge de Oteiza addressed to artists from the Americas, published a few months earlier in Revista de la Universidad del Cauca [see “El arte nuevo de la posguerra: Carta a los artistas de América”, doc. no. 1089675]. Vidales Jaramillo begins by discussing the problem of the relationship between artistic practice and criticism. In Vidales Jaramillo’s view, the artist and the critic have different objectives and, therefore, their activities require distinct procedures and forms of knowledge. According to Vidales Jaramillo, history has shown that those who demand that artists be critics or that critics be artists are committing a grave mistake that can be demonstrated historically.  Vidales Jaramillo goes on to discuss the potential for an art of the Americas and the role of European influence on such an endeavour. Vidales Jaramillo agrees with de Oteiza that it is impossible to eschew any reference to European art, and that it would be foolish to ignore the contributions of masters from the Old World in the education of artists from the Americas. Vidales Jaramillo disagrees with the sculptor, though, about the inexistence of a specifically “American art.” An art of the Americas, Vidales Jaramillo argues, should by no means be rejected. Indeed, furthering such art is the greatest aspiration of artists from the region. To illustrate his point of view, Vidales Jaramillo analyzes the vague semantics of the term “School of Paris,” and criticizes the position that calls for a clear break from it. In short, Vidales Jaramillo proposes studying the past and tradition to lay the basis for an autonomous art of the future, one that does not reject essential influences. As the last sentence of the article puts it, “intending not to learn from others is as misguided as intending to learn poorly.”


This article attests to the discussion around the possibility of building a specifically “American art” clearly different from European art, a topic of frequent debate in Latin America during the first half of the 20th century. In his far-reaching response to Jorge de Oteiza (1908-2003), poet and art critic Luis Vidales Jaramillo (1900-1990) duly addresses each of the arguments put forth by the sculptor. The debate between a Colombian critic and a Spanish artist sheds light on the various positions in that polemic as well as on the other important controversies of the time. As this article illustrates, the role and importance of the art critic as well as the relationship between foreign influences and local culture were topics of constant debate. Also significant is the passionate tone with which Vidales Jaramillo closes the article, proclaiming his faith in “American art” of the future that, he imagines, will be rich in decoration and a collective spirit. This attitude may well be related to the Marxist bent of a critic who never hid his faith that an art with collective implications and socialist aspirations would emerge.

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