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In this review of Julia Codesido’s first exhibition at the Academia Nacional de Música Alcedo (Lima, 1929), Augusto Aguirre Morales describes her as a great exponent of Peruvian art. The writer submits a reading of her work based on its “emotional” content, and pays special attention to her portraits and their essentially pictorial value. Her indigenous subject matter reveals Sabogal’s technical influence. In the reviewer’s opinion, the greatest value in her work, over and above its formal and technical elements, “is its spirit, the artist’s temperament.” He therefore appreciates her profound understanding of the undeniable “emotional power” of the paintings on display. With regard to indigenism, he claims that a distinction must be made between snobbism and ambition. More than the physical body, Codesido captures “the Indian soul.”


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).

Unlike her companions, Codesido embraced indigenism as her point of departure on a journey of personal growth that took her—in her later years—to the very threshold of abstraction, combining a “visual discovery of the country with the inexorable influx of modernity” (according to Wuffarden’s review of her 2004 retrospective exhibition). Her journey can best be explained by the migration of her family to Europe, where she witnessed the evolution of the artistic avant-garde. Back in Peru, she first took classes at the painter Teófilo Castillo’s studio, and then attended the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes. At her first exhibition at the Academia Nacional de Música Alcedo (Lima, 1929), she was described as a competent exponent of the “vernacular trend.” However, Codesido’s future success was based on an Expressionist approach that relied on her command of color and design.

Augusto Aguirre Morales was a writer, born in Arequipa, who was known mainly for his novel El pueblo del Sol (1924–27), an idealized description of life in Tahuantinsuyo or the Inca Empire. In April of the year, when this review was published, he joined the faculty at the ENBA as a professor of Inca art.

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