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    Esculies, Óscar A., 1913-
    El pincel aborigen de Sabogal / por Óscar A. Esculíes
    El Comercio (Lima, Perú). -- feb. 6, 1938
    Newspaper article – Essays
    Esculies, Óscar A. "El pincel aborigen de Saboga." El Comercio (Lima, Perú), february 6, 193.

This article about José Sabogal and his work, published in the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio, was written by Óscar Esculíes after visiting the artist’s workshop at the ENBA (Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes). According to the Paraguayan writer and diplomat, Sabogal’s simplicity derives from his direct contact with the world of indigenous Peruvians which is where he finds “the malleable material of his art works.” Esculíes refers to previous attempts to create a Peruvian style of painting that unfortunately only succeeded “in ridiculing indigenous life from the boulevards of Paris.” Sabogal, on the other hand, possesses the genuine understanding of the native born. Esculíes believes that Sabogal’s work, regardless of his technique, conveys a true sense of Peru. The author concludes his article by stating that “he is the creole painter who most loves his country.” Sabogal’s illustrations of Peruvian Indians evoke the full historical significance of the nation and its people over the course of their long existence.


The author of this article, the Paraguayan writer Óscar Esculíes, was the secretary of the Paraguayan Legation in Lima. He contributed essays and poems to several newspapers and magazines; he also published the book Rumor de agua (1936) in Montevideo. His comments about Sabogal’s work indicate how—from a foreigner’s perspective—Indigenism became the true expression of aboriginal life. Paraguay is actually a fully bilingual country, where the Guaraní language and culture are an integral part of all aspects of life.

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.

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