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    La cúpula en América / José Sabogal
    El arquitecto peruano (Lima, Perú). -- Sept. 1939
    Journal article – Essays
    Sabogal, José. “La cúpula en América.” El arquitecto peruano (Lima, Perú), (September 1939).


This article was written by José Sabogal on the development of architecture in Latin America. Sabogal emphasizes the emergence of an art of construction with its own nuances after the Spanish conquest, when Western elements were combined with Native elements. Upon their arrival, the Spanish encountered a bold, monumental architecture, in which the most outstanding rock constructions were made by the Mayan and Aztec civilizations in Mexico and by the Incas in Peru. They also found adobe constructions by the Chimú, Nazca and the Paracas peoples on the Peruvian coast. After the conquest, the dome would become “el símbolo de la cruzada plástica constructiva” [the symbol of the Crusade in the construction arts], “el monumento de la nueva arquitectura y símbolo de la nueva fe” [the monument of the new architecture and symbol of the new faith]. This element would be adopted “desde California hasta las pampas argentinas, abarcando la titánica empresa más inmensa de que haya memoria” [from California to the Argentine pampa, embracing the most immense, colossal undertaking in the memory of mankind]. Out of the rubble of the antique cities arose new villas in “choque histórico con el predominio de la construcción y plástica renacentista sobre la línea estética india” [a historical collision, with Renaissance construction and visual arts predominating over the Indian line of aesthetics]. However, “con las generaciones del cruce de sangre se iniciará el enlace entre las dos fuerzas” [with the mixing of the races over time, a bond would be formed between the two forces]. The growing number of Criollos and people of mixed race who worked on the construction would give rise to the appearance of “una expresión indígena” [a Native art], in which “acento y cadencia indígena surgen entre volutas y cornisones barrocos que se tornan francos y robustos” [the Native accent and rhythm would arise between Baroque volutes and cornices, which would become frank and robust]. In the same way, the dome, “adquiere caracteres americanos en su estructura y en su ornamentación, por la influencia del medio, del paisaje, de las materias y esencialmente por el sentimiento criollo marcadamente impreso” [would acquire Latin American characteristics in its structure and ornamentation, through the marked influence of the environment, the landscape, the materials and essentially of Criollo emotions]. Thus, what became evident was a sensibility that represented the environment “del nuevo tipo de hombre que llega a armonizar con la tierra, expresando su contenido plástico a base de las dos fuentes prestigiosas de cultura que lo crearon” [of a new kind of man who had achieved harmony with the earth, expressing his art based on the two prestigious sources of culture that created him].


Indianism in art reached its peak in Peru between 1920 and 1930, falling into a broader cultural and ideological movement focused on redefining Peruvian identity based on Indigenous components. Although there were times when it was mainly dedicated to a reassessment of what was Native, it also assumed the defense of ethnic diversity in Peru. Its main ideologist and undisputed leader was José Sabogal, whose approach was influenced by the regionalist painters of Spain and Argentina, the countries where the painter had done his art training. When he returned to Peru in late 1918, Sabogal spent a few months in Cuzco, where he executed around 40 oil paintings related to the people and landscapes of that region, which were exhibited in Lima in July 1919. That exhibition is considered the start of artistic Indianism in Peru, since earlier initiatives turned out not to have a comparable impact.

In 1940, he held an exhibition of 25 works (oil paintings, watercolors, pen and ink drawings and one fresco) in a room at the Lima Country Club. Most of these pieces were rendered during the years 1938 to 1940, and for the first time, a set of works featured themes related to Arequipa. In fact, an aspect that had been turning into a special interest for Sabogal was the study and reassessment of the traditional arts. The artist/critic would pay particular attention to the concept of mixing of races as an element that defined the national art. This element would be present both in the popular visual arts and the Vice-Regal architecture, as well as in the work of Pancho Fierro, a nineteenth century watercolor painter. Regarding this theme, Sabogal published articles including, “La cúpula en América” (1939) [The Dome in Latin America], “Arquitectura peruana. La casona arequipeña” [Peruvian Architecture. The Great Houses of Arequipa. (1940), “Los mates burilados y las estampas del pintor criollo Pancho Fierro” [Engraved Maté Cups and Embossed Works of the Criollo Painter, Pancho Fierro] (1943), “Pintura mural y Arequipa arquitectónica” [The Mural Painting and Architecture of Arequipa] (1944); the articles listed here were reproduced for this project. All that work was done at a time when there was a current of opposition to Indianism, which was also opposed to Sabogal’s leadership in the local art world, specifically at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes [National School of Fine Arts (ENBA). Upon leaving that center for artistic training, Sabogal assumed the leadership of the Instituto de Arte Peruano del Museo de la Cultura Peruana [Institute of Peruvian Art at the Museum of the Peruvian Culture] in Lima. Essential aspects of the work he proposed were a registry of Vice-Regal architecture and the collection and study of popular art objects, to be used to establish a Museo de Artesanía y Artes Populares [Museum of Handicrafts and Popular Art]. (Sabogal, José. Instituto de Arte Peruano. Informe sobre sus actividades. [Institute of Peruvian Art. Activity Report. Lima, ca. 1950. IAP Archive, MNCP).


Gabriela Germaná Roquez
Museo de Arte de Lima, Lima, Peru
Courtesy of Isabel Maria, Ana Bozena and Maria Jadwiga Sabogal Dunin Borkowski, Lima, Peru