Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art Home


Document first page thumbnail

Published in Lima-based newspaper La Prensa, this document is a compilation of reviews published in New York newspapers on the Julia Codesido exhibition held at Delphic Studios gallery, also in New York, in 1936. Howard Devree of The New York Times speaks of the support Codesido received for the show from Mexican painters José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros and from writer Waldo Frank. He asserts that, along with Sabogal, Codesido is considered a leading figure in “her country’s new aesthetic movement.” Devree describes her work as “poetic and realist”; its decorative quality does not undermine its expressiveness. The critic for the Herald Tribune speaks of the natural simplicity of Codesido’s work, which gives it power and vitality. The critic has specific praise for the paintings La Feria (The Market) and La Trilla de los Andes (Threshing in the Andes) due to their decorative quality, the way the figures are conceived, and the use of color, which is similar in style to the work of Mexican painters. The critic for The Sun also underscores Codesido’s ties to Mexican art, calling her painting “peasant art” that, though raw in its expression, is reminiscent of Degas in its naturalness. Regarding La Trilla (Threshing), The Sun’s critic mentions Joe Jones and his images of the wheat fields of Missouri. The New York Post, meanwhile, praises the colorfulness of works that convey the drama of peasant life.


Pictorial Indianism, which peaked in Peru in the twenties, thirties, and forties, was part of a wider movement in Peruvian society that attempted to redefine national identity in terms of native elements. While, at a certain moment, Indianism’s chief concern was the revalorization of “the indigenous” and of an Inca past seen as glorious, the movement also defended a mestizo identity that brought together “the native” and “the Hispanic.” José Sabogal (1888-1956) was indisputably the leader and mind behind Indianism in the visual arts. His deep sense of “rootedness” was influenced by regionalist tendencies evident in art from Spain (the work of Ignacio Zuloaga (1870-1945), among others) and in Argentina (Jorge Bermúdez (1883-1926), to name just one artist)—countries where Sabogal spent a number of years studying. When he returned to Peru in late 1918, he settled in Cuzco, where he produced almost forty oil paintings of local characters and views of the city that were exhibited in Lima in 1919. That exhibition is considered the formal beginning of pictorial Indianism in Peru. His second solo show in Lima—the one that enabled him to consolidate prestige—was held in the galleries of the Casino Español in 1921. In 1920, Sabogal joined the faculty of the new Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes, which he then directed from 1932 to 1943. The following painters, all of whom formed part of the Indianist movement, studied at that institution: Julia Codesido, Alicia Bustamante (1905-68), Teresa Carvallo (1895-1988), Enrique Camino Brent (1909-60), and Camilo Blas (1903-85).


For Julia Codesido, unlike her peers, Indianism was the point of departure that took her, in her mature years, close to abstraction; she combined the “visual discovery of her country with the inexorable eruption of modernism” (Wuffarden, Luis Eduardo. Julia Codesido (1938-1979): muestra antológica. (Lima: CCPUCP, 2004). The unique nature of her exploration can be explained by the fact that her family immigrated to Europe in the early twentieth century, allowing her to come into contact with the avant-garde. Upon returning to Lima, she took studio classes with painter Teófilo Castillo and then, in 1919, enrolled in the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes (ENBA) soon after that institution had opened. Pursuant to her first show held at the Academia Nacional de Música Alcedo in Lima in 1929, she came to be considered a “vernacular” artist, though even at that early point in her career her unique artistic personality and expressive stylization in color and design made themselves felt.


In 1931, she was given a professorship at the ENBA after a second solo show featuring works with more complex pictorial formulations. Due to her pursuit of the ornamental, though, she left the academic milieu. Despite her interest in authentic Peruvian culture, she developed a style that did not fall into ethnographic documentation. In 1935, she was one of the first artists invited to have a show at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City; that exhibition launched her international career. It was partly due to the attention her painting received from Mexican muralists that she was able to break into the US art market with shows at Delphic Studios gallery in New York (1936) and at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1937).

Gabriela Germaná Roquez
Museo de Arte de Lima, Lima, Peru