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On the occasion of the Ier. Salón de Arte Femenino [First Salon of Feminine Art] in June 1951, the critic Casimiro Eiger begins this essay (written for a radio address) by wondering about the legitimacy and significance of an exhibition focused on “the feminine.” Eiger ponders the actual existence of such a thing and argues that in art there can be no distinction based on gender, given the universal condition of the visual elements involved in a good work of art. In defense of his position, Eiger presents historical examples to corroborate that ever since the Renaissance, women have held their own in the visual arts in terms of vocation and rigor, and have successfully distanced themselves from the anecdotal and intimist commonplace, which at a popular level, can be defined as “the feminine.” Eiger maintains that nothing can distinguish the works of a good male painter from those of his female counterpart, and although he does accept that women possess a particular sensitivity, he also stresses that the virtue of a work lies in how it uses and overcomes its specific elements. Discussing the exhibition in question, Eiger unequivocally states that the organizers failed by exhibiting works (in the same space) by a few good female painters as well as canvases by “ladies” who paint as a hobby and display little rigor in their work. He also deplores the absence of artists such as Alicia Cajiao, Cecilia Aya, Sofía Urrutia, Fanny and Débora Arango (1907–2005), Hena Rodríguez (1915–1997), and Lucy Tejada (1920?2011).
This document is important because it includes a discussion on “feminine” art by the Polish-born critic Casimiro Eiger (who settled in Colombia in 1943). In his essay, he wonders about the legitimacy of the term and the circumstances that defined it. Keeping very much in step with the formalist approach that inspired local art production, Eiger addressed the problem from a perspective that understood the artist’s work as a discipline focused strictly on permanent and universal aesthetic elements.
Eiger wrote this essay as the text of his radio address scheduled to air on June 22, 1951 on the program “Exposiciones y museos” [Exhibitions and Museums] broadcast on the Radiodifusora Nacional de Colombia [Colombian National Radio station], where he worked as a commentator and art critic from 1948.
Eiger made a significant contribution to the discourse on the visual arts in Colombia by discussing local art production within the context of western art. He provided names and processes as points of reference for the events and problems that he included in his critiques and reviews. In this particular case, he mentioned the names of certain women in the history of western art: one of the Van Eyck siblings, Angelica Kauffmann, Madame Vigée Le Brun, Rosa Bonheur, Berthe Morisot, and Suzanne Valadon.
The discussion continued as subsequent exhibitions included women artists whose critical reception prompted debates on the question of “femininity” and “the feminine” (On this subject see “Pintoras colombianas” [Colombian Women Painters], doc. no. 1080517, and “Tres pintoras colombianas en la Unión Panamericana” [Three Colombian Women Painters in the Pan-American Union], doc. no. 1080244).