Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango. Banco de la República. Bogotá-Colombia.
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Writer Alfonso Dávila divides this text on the work of Colombian artist Francisco Antonio Cano into three parts: (i) “El estudio,” (ii) “Lo místico,” and (iii) “Pintor objetivo.” The first section briefly describes Cano’s studio. The second asserts that, despite the claims of many authors, Cano is a religious (specifically Catholic) artist; it discusses the “Christian” nature of his work. In the third section, Dávila describes Cano as a “portrait artist,” which, he says, means he is also an “objective artist.” Dávila establishes an opposition, then, between the subjective landscape genre and the objective portrait genre. In closing, the author briefly analyzes two oil paintings by Cano: El Padre Mario Valenzuela and La alegría del agua.
This brief essay evidences some of the debates—and basic confusions—operative in certain sectors of the Colombian intelligentsia of the twenties and thirties and, hence, it is pertinent to how local criticism responded to certain terms and notions essential to Modernism.
In this case, Alfonso Dávila (under the pseudonym “Alfonso María de Ávila”) discusses Colombian painter Francisco Antonio Cano (1865–1935) and his surroundings, focusing specifically on what he considers the “objectivity” of his work as a “portrait artist.” This forms the basis for a brief discussion of the division between objectivity and subjectivity in art. Though subjectivity is, for an array of reasons, the cornerstone of Modern art, Dávila asserts that the “landscape” genre represents “the intimate and the heartfelt, as well as the notion of self-perception” and is, as such, subjective by definition. On the other hand, he considers some of Cano’s portraits “objective.” Thus, Dávila deems the landscape genre innately subjective and the portrait genre innately objective.
The work and career of art critic Alfonso Dávila, as well as his historical, theoretical, and critical points of reference, are, unfortunately, little known. Regardless, this article is essential to understanding some of the notions operative in Colombian art criticism from the first half of the 20th century as well as factors that help explain the place that Cano, as an ultra-academic painter, occupied in the Colombian art scene of the twenties and thirties.