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In this article about the indigenist painter José Sabogal’s relationship with Peru’s tradition arts, José María Arguedas explains that Sabogal was a member of the movement led by the thinker José Carlos Mariátegui, which was devoted to the spread of socialism and its theoretical underpinnings and to the study of conditions in the country. He therefore undertook research projects that contributed to a true understanding of life in the Andean region. Arguedas notes that Sabogal developed his aesthetic ideology on a trip he took to the southern mountains, which became the main subject of his paintings. Sabogal became a vocal advocate for the native cause, working with a group of artists who took an indigenist approach within the general field of traditional art. When the popularity of this genre waned, they promoted it very successfully in Lima and outside the country, and the Andean artisans started catering to an urban clientele. Arguedas believes that it was the artist Sabogal who drew attention to the distance that existed (in the classicist mindset of the country) between the capital city and the provinces.
In their attempts to find the true “Peruvian art,” painters in the indigenist movement used local motifs in their own work, and began to study and reappraise the traditional visual arts. They traveled all over the country, looking for native and mestizo artisans whose names and works of art would soon become familiar to residents of the capital city, Lima. This process was at its most intense at the Museo Nacional IAP (Instituto de Arte Peruano), which was directed by José Sabogal and included the artists Julia Codesido (1909–1960) and Camilo Blas (1903–1985). Created in 1941, it paid particular attention to traditional art, and was considered the prime expression of mestizaje [miscegenation] and the paradigm of Peruvian art. The author of this article, the noted anthropologist José María Arguedas (1911–1969), had many interests in common with the indigenist movement, particularly in terms of the cultural expressions of Peruvian Indians. The writer worked with Alicia and Celia Bustamante (her first wife), and did significant research on how the traditional arts changed in the first half of the twentieth century. His studies are based on the accelerated modernization processes in the Andean region (in the Mantaro valley and Ayacucho).