The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
The book Conferencias sobre perspectiva y otros asuntos de dibujo, dictadas en el Colegio de San Bartolomé was published in 1881 by the artist and arts promoter Alberto Urdaneta. The publication begins with a quotation from Leonardo Da Vinci on perspective. In citing Da Vinci, the writer was taking a position contrary to the manuals on perspective previously published in Colombia, whose focus was clearly technical (drafted in the context of “art and trade schools”). Here, Urdaneta’s manual provides a fully artistic focus, defining geometry, the Academy and the various types of perspective. The writer provides instructions (to his students) related to handling charcoal, maintaining silence when you are working, types of paper, light and other technical aspects. In the second part of the book, Urdaneta includes several graphics and lists different types of lines and geometric figures. The third part refers to the different types of volume. What’s more, at the end of each section of the book, there are review questions for students.
This publication was one of the first manuals in the history of Colombian art to teach the technical aspects of drawing with a clearly artistic intent. It was not designed for the “art and trade schools” as was customary at the time; on the contrary, it was designed for artists and art students in Colombia. The book was assembled from lectures given by Alberto Urdaneta (1845-87) at the Colegio de San Bartolomé.
In addition to being an artist, Urdaneta was one of the major arts promoters in the second half of the nineteenth century in Colombia. Conservative by orientation, he founded the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Bogotá in 1886; in fact, it was the first of its kind in that Andean country. Similarly, his undertakings included founding the Papel Periódico Ilustrado (1881–88), the first newspaper to use the woodcut in Colombia’s art history. He also organized the first Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes (1886), in which the works selected enabled viewers to look at the country’s art heritage in a social setting. This show also led to a critical revival of the viceregal artist, Gregorio Vásquez de Arce y Ceballos (1638-1711), an effort first initiated in 1859 by the art historian José Manuel Groot (1800–78).
On various occasions, Urdaneta associated art with the ideal of “civilization and progress.” The model of artistic representation he established—through the Escuela de Bellas Artes, a project that had the special support of the president of the Republic, Rafael Núñez (1880-82)—was academicism. That is why this language would end up incarnating the ideal of cultural “civilization and progress” during most of the period called the Conservative Republic (1886–1930).
In this regard, the book Conferencias sobre perspectiva y otros asuntos de dibujo, dictadas en el Colegio de San Bartolomé, a school located in Bogotá, was a key to understanding Urdaneta’s thinking. It is the only known printed primary source written by Urdaneta that gives an account of his pedagogical activities in the arts and, therefore, about his visual-arts affinities. In this publication, Urdaneta made statements such as: “The purpose and goal of painting, like the general purpose of other visual arts derived from painting, is the most faithful representation possible—on a flat surface—of the objects placed before us”. In referring to the faithfulness of the image and the precise representation of reality in art, Urdaneta links his discourse since 1881 to academicist realism, presenting this tenet to the academic community at the Colegio de San Bartolomé.