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In August 1943 a ceremony was organized at the Cabane Club in Lima to honor José Sabogal. This document includes the honoree’s speech as well as the one given on that occasion by the poet José Gálvez, who refers to his doctoral thesis on Peruvian art, in which he claimed that “new ideas were being explored but, as always—naturally and logically—the explorations ignored the native environment,” and extolled Sabogal’s “abiding passion for purely traditional Peruvian art.” The painter had been active since 1919, when he returned to Peru and had his first exhibition. Sabogal states that from that point on his interest in subjects associated with Cuzco expanded to include “the pictorial crusade that would later embrace the whole of Peru, so that my canvases would reveal national beauty that had never been seen before.” His landscapes of Andean and coastal scenes showed “the most picturesque racial mixtures of our varied terrain.” Sabogal and his followers were called “Indigenistas” [Indigenists] but in fact they sought to convey a far broader idea and express “our essential identity with our land, its humanity, and our time.” He outlines the evolution of modern Peruvian art and explains that its roots “stretch back to the time when the aesthetic conflict between the two cultures was at its most intense.” After mentioning local influences in the traditional and academic art of the past, he discusses the “Indigenist” movement he founded and its impact in the international arena.
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).
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.
José Gálvez Barrenechea was a prominent Peruvian writer and politician. He graduated from the Universidad de San Marcos and, in his thesis—Posibilidad de una genuina literatura nacional (1915)—explored the idea of a specifically Peruvian literary historiography. He was a professor and later dean (1928–31) of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters at the same university. Active in Peruvian politics, he was Minister of Education (1931), senator (1945), and subsequently Vice President of Peru. He was also a journalist; he founded the newspapers La Crónica (1915) and Justicia (1926), and was also co-director of the newspaper El Perú (1930–31). He wrote modernist poetry which he published in his first book, Bajo la luna (1909). He explored the ideas addressed by symbolism in Jardín cerrado. Poemas y canciones (1912). His prose works were written in a costumbrista style: Una Lima que se va (1921), Nuestra pequeña historia (1928), Estampas limeñas (1935), and Calles de Lima y meses del año (1943).
[There are a great many articles about this artist in the ICAA digital archive, notably the following by Sabogal himself: “Arquitectura peruana: la casona arequipeña (doc. no. 1173340); “La cúpula en América” (doc. no. 1125912); “Mariano Flórez, 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)].