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The critic Carlos Solari (alias “Don Quijote”) writes about José Sabogal, the founder of Peruvian indigenist painting, on the eve of the artist’s exhibition at the Sociedad Amigos del Arte in Buenos Aires in 1928. Solari reviews the formal and psychological aspects of Sabogal’s work, noting its total originality and predicting that the artist will be successful in Argentina. The critic applauds the painter’s “powerful vernacular” expression of all that he has observed on his frequent travels in the interior of the country, noting a spontaneous association between those journeys and the artist’s stylistic development of the “very new art movement” that the article describes as Post-Expressionism because of its international style. In Solari’s opinion, Post-Expressionism’s main features are so evocative of the natural surroundings and the people of the hills that he is not surprised by Sabogal’s spontaneous association with that movement.
In this article, the Peruvian art critic Carlos Solari [alias “Don Quijote” (1883–1932)] predicts that José Sabogal’s exhibition at the Sociedad Amigos del Arte, in Buenos Aires in 1928, will be a resounding success. This article is complemented by “Notas de arte: Sabogal, en Buenos Aires” by the same author [see the article in ICAA digital archive (doc. no. 1140195)]. The critic’s interest is already apparent in that earlier article, where he associates Sabogal’s painting with more contemporary European art movements, while nonetheless defending the Peruvian artist’s originality based on his deep understanding of the land and the inhabitants of the Andes region. Solari paid close attention to the artist’s work during the course of that decade.
Indigenist painting flourished in Peru from the 1920s to the 1940s as part of a broader movement that sought to redefine Peruvian identity in terms of indigenous elements. Although at some points it was entirely focused on the “indigenous” story and the Inca past that was considered to have been glorious, it also championed a mestizo identity portrayed as a result of the integration of “native” and “Hispanic” cultures. The main ideologue and unchallenged leader of the indigenist movement in the visual arts was José Sabogal (1888–1956), whose profound interpretation of the concept of “being rooted” was deeply influenced by regional art movements in Spain (Ignacio Zuloaga [1870–1945], among others) and in Argentina (Jorge Bermúdez [1883–1926], to mention one of them); these were countries where Sabogal spent many of his formative years. When he returned to Peru in late 1918, he settled in Cuzco, where he produced almost forty oil paintings of people and scenes of the city; these works were subsequently shown in Lima (1919) at an exhibition that is considered the formal beginning of indigenist painting in Peru. Sabogal’s second solo exhibition, at the Casino Español (1921), established his reputation. He joined the faculty at the new Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1920, where he was eventually appointed director (1932–43). There he trained a group of painters who joined the indigenist movement, such as Julia Codesido, Alicia Bustamante (1905–68), Teresa Carvallo (1895–1988), Enrique Camino Brent (1909–60), and Camilo Blas (1903–85).
Sabogal returned to Cuzco from time to time to recharge his creative energy. In 1925, he stayed there for several months, making notes for a series of important works that he later exhibited in Montevideo and Buenos Aires in 1928 (a collection of seventy-six oil paintings and prints). The positive reception these works received in the Río de la Plata region fueled expectations in Peru, and Lima newspapers reprinted articles that had appeared in the Buenos Aires press [on that subject, see the following texts in the archive: (unattributed) “José Sabogal ha triunfado rotundamente en Buenos Aires” (doc. no. 1140212); and by Manuel A. Seoane “José Sabogal, en Buenos Aires” (doc. no. 1140227)].
[As complementary reading, see also the following articles by Carlos Solari: “La próxima exposición Sabogal” (doc. no. 1139836); and his “Notas de arte”: “Las últimas de Sabogal” (doc. no. 1140113), “Una carta de José Sabogal” (doc. no. 1139878), and “La exposición Sabogal” (doc. no. 1139715)].