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    Instantáneas : breves entrevistas de "Variedades" : José Sabogal
    Variedades : revista semanal ilustrada (Lima, Perú). -- Jun. 16, 1923
    Journal article – Interviews
    "Instantáneas: breves entrevistas de "Variedades": José Sabogal." Variedades: revista semanal ilustrada (Lima, Perú), June 16, 1923.

This questionnaire-like interview with José Sabogal addresses his recent stay in Mexico, which lasted for a number of months. The interviewer asserts that Sabogal “is one of our most valuable young artists,” and explains that he has already begun teaching drawing at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes (ENBA) under the supervision of painter Daniel Hernández. “His overtly nationalist work” has, the text goes on, been well received by critics. It was in Mexico that he “blossomed as an artist” and formulated other readings of his concept of “art.” When asked about his favorite school of painting, Sabogal replies that “each artist has his own means of expression,” but that his preference is for the set of artists that emerged at the Flemish schools and in the Italian Renaissance. He also admits an innate inkling for Italian primitivists like Titian, as well as for El Greco and Goya. Regarding his contemporaries, he says it would be “rash to pass judgment without seeing the originals,” though he does declare his admiration for Diego Rivera. When asked about new trends in painting, Sabogal states that “there are no tendencies, just good painting” or, rather, “great artists who are rarely the ones that the press praises.” He says his favorite poet is the biblical author of the Song of Songs and his favorite writer of prose Cervantes, particularly in El Quijote, or Benvenuto Cellini in his memoirs. His statements on authentically Peruvian art are ambiguous because of the nondescript nature of much production in a country where, beyond the areas where the American or European influence is hegemonic, the only truly local style is from the Andes. 


In 1923, Sabogal spent six months in Mexico to delve into the artistic transformations taking place in that country in the wake of the revolution (1910-21). He spent most of his time in Mexico City and Guadalajara, visiting museums and getting to know the leading players in the “Escuela Mexicana de Pintura.” Both Sabogal and his work were warmly received; he sold paintings to the museum and to the city government of the capital of the state of Jalisco, and influenced, to some extent, the course of local work in the woodcut medium. Sabogal’s experience in Mexico inspired him greatly, deepening his interest in local forms of artistic expression and muralism as well as in the nationalist line that—despite many obstacles—his work had been exploring for a number of years. This interview evidences Sabogal’s artistic interests and his admiration for Diego Rivera.


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 newly founded 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).


There are many texts on Sabogal in the ICAA digital archive, including the following written by the painter himself: “Arquitectura peruana: la casona arequipeña (doc. no. 1173340), “La cúpula en América” (doc. no. 1125912), “Mariano Florez, artista burilador de "mates" peruanos, murió en Huancayo: José Sabogal su admirador y amigo, le rinde homenaje” (doc. no. 1136695), “Los mates burilados y las estampas del pintor criollo Pancho Fierro” (doc. no. 1173400), “Los 'mates' y el yaraví” (doc. no. 1126008), “La pintura mexicana moderna” (doc. no. 1051636), and “Sala de arte popular peruano en el Museo de la Cultura : selecciones de arte” (doc. no. 1173418).

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