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This article, written in 1919, was published several months after José Sabogal’s first exhibition due to, as the author explains, “the congestion of opinions, appraisals, and enthusiasm” that circulated at the time. Elvira García y García explains that the painter is originally from the mountains, which explains his obsession with the Andean landscape. This personal background underlies his decision to spend six months in Cuzco on his return from Europe. In her opinion, the attraction to that city is based on the fact that “streets in Cuzco are similar to those in Seville and other second- and third-ranking Spanish towns.” After discussing several descriptive and technical aspects of the paintings at the exhibition, the reviewer concludes that the artist captures a sense of the mountains in his paintings and therefore, in her opinion, creates “patriotic” works that convey the beauty of remote areas of the Peruvian countryside.  


This is the distinguished educator Elvira García y García’s review of the first exhibition of works in Lima (Casa Brandes, 1919) by the founder of Peruvian indigenist painting, José Sabogal. This exhibition is regarded as the formal beginning of indigenist painting in Peru, since other earlier events had nowhere near the same impact. Special credit is due to the critic and painter Teófilo Castillo who sensed and understood the historic importance of Sabogal’s early works, recognizing the complete break with the prevailing academicism that was achieved by their broad brushstrokes, strong colors, and monumental tendency, all of which were traits that were closely associated with the nascent collective imaginary of Peru’s indigenous past.  


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 (exemplified by Ignacio Zuloaga [1870–1945], among others) and in Argentina (Jorge Bermúdez [1883–1926], to mention just one); Sabogal spent a great deal of time in these countries during his formative years. When he returned to Peru in late 1918 he settled in Cuzco, where he produced about 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 one-man show, 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).

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