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


Document first page thumbnail
  • ICAA Record ID
    Macera, Cesar Francisco, 1908-1964
    José Sabogal : maestro pintor / César Francisco Macera
    Turismo : revista peruana de viajes, artes, letras y actualidad (Lima, Perú). -- Vol. 16, no. 161 (mar. 1941)
    Journal article – Essays
    Macera, César Francisco. "José Sabogal: maestro pintor." Turismo: revista peruana de viajes, artes, letras y actualidad (Lima, Perú), vol. 16, no. 161 (March 1941).

According to César Francisco Macera, José Sabogal’s first exhibition in Perú (Lima, 1919) had a profound impact on the country; viewers were astonished and appalled at “the new landscape” they were looking at. Sabogal responded to critiques of indigenism by challenging foreign art and unpatriotic academicism. He also pointed out that “Peru’s art is visual” which is reflected in modern Peruvian art that “is 400 years old and expresses the struggle between two cultures, the Mediterranean culture and the Inca culture.” He vents his frustration over the fact that there are no art galleries or museums in Peru. He also believes that Peru should revitalize its own art, and claims that the indigenists have shown how to do that. He calls abstract art a decadent product, “one that comes naturally to those who have traveled vast distances [in time] and have experienced many aesthetic cycles,” which is not the case in Peru. Sabogal reaffirms his interest in the creation of “Subescuelas de Arte” [Art Sub-schools] all over the country (as in Mexico). He envisions a central school and others in Cuzco, Arequipa, and Cajamarca, with a rotation of teachers and students.


In this article, the Peruvian journalist and writer César Francisco Macera interviews José Sabogal, beginning with some comments about the painter’s temperament. Sabogal talks about how he got started as an artist, recalling his early training in several European countries and in Argentina, followed by his return to Peru and his first exhibition in his native country in 1919.

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 glorious Inca past that 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 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: Julia Codesido, Alicia Bustamante (1905–1968), Teresa Carvallo (1895–1988), Enrique Camino Brent (1909–1960), and Camilo Blas (1903–1985).

In the mid-1930s, a powerful movement emerged to oppose the Indigenist style—which was perceived as official and exclusive—and eventually, in 1943, Sabogal was dismissed from the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes. Supporters of Indigenism viewed this move as unjust, and rallied to the painter’s defense in letters, newspaper articles, and social events.

[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
Museo de Arte de Lima, Lima, Peru