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This review notes that despite his youth and his provincial origins, José Sabogal’s talent is beyond dispute. It is precisely because of Sabogal’s evident skill that Carlos Solari decides to point out a few “buts” in the work of this artist who had only just arrived from Italy. Solari’s main objection is that “Sabogal has yet to develop his own style,” as can be seen in the way he “convulses” his figures to create movement, and in his habit of covering faces and hands with “inappropriate blotches” in an attempt to achieve an original synthesis. Solari also critiques the impersonal nature of the work by the painter, claiming that some of his paintings mirror the Spanish styles of Zuloaga, Anglada Camarasa, and Velázquez. On the other hand, the critic agrees that “Sabogal feels and loves what he paints.” Solari ends his review with flattering words about the artist’s potential, comparing him to Peru’s major academic painter: Sabogal “shows such spirit and talent that I am sure […] that in him we have a Baca Flor whose work is richer, better, and more Peruvian. But he must do more to develop his own style.”  


In this article, the Peruvian art critic Carlos Solari, writing under the pseudonym Don Quijote, reviews the work of José Sabogal, the founder of Peruvian indigenist painting, at his first exhibition in Lima, in 1919. This review is of interest because it documents the paucity of negative opinions expressed in the press in those days; such opinions were based more heavily on academic considerations, albeit strongly influenced by the expectations concerning the talent of this artist, who was still very young at that stage.   


Indigenist painting flourished in Peru from the 1920s to the 1940s as part of a broader movement that sought to redefine Peruvian identity in terms of indigenous elements. Although at some points it was entirely focused on the “indigenous” story and the Inca past that was considered to have been glorious, it also championed a mestizo identity portrayed as a result of the integration of “native” and “Hispanic” cultures. The main ideologue and unchallenged leader of the indigenist movement in the visual arts was José Sabogal (1888–1956), whose profound interpretation of the concept of “being rooted” was deeply influenced by regional art movements in Spain (Ignacio Zuloaga [1870–1945], among others) and in Argentina (Jorge Bermúdez [1883–1926], to mention one of them); these were countries where Sabogal spent many of his formative years. When he returned to Peru in late 1918, he settled in Cuzco, where he produced almost forty oil paintings of people and scenes of the city; these works were subsequently shown in Lima (1919) at an exhibition that is considered the formal beginning of indigenist painting in Peru. Sabogal’s second solo exhibition at the Casino Español (1921), established his reputation. He joined the faculty at the new Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1920, where he was eventually appointed director (1932–43). There he trained a group of painters who joined the indigenist movement, such as Julia Codesido, Alicia Bustamante (1905–68), Teresa Carvallo (1895–1988), Enrique Camino Brent (1909–60), and Camilo Blas (1903–85).


[There are many articles about this artist in the ICAA digital archive, including the following written by Sabogal: “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
Carlos Solari, 1919