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In this article, the French writer Francis de Miomandre notes that Europeans are largely unaware of the exuberance of current Latin American art, as exemplified by the group exhibition of works by painters from the region: Santos Balmori, Jaime Colson, Isaías Cabezón, and César Moro. Latin America is usually viewed as still being under Europe’s wing, but in fact, according to the author, “a new race, enlightened by new feelings” has arisen “to challenge all imported culture.” He believes that despite their cosmopolitanism—and over and above their specific subject matter—the work in the exhibition already expresses a different, mysterious, “melancholy” spirit that is an essential part of “the Indian soul.” In reference to the latter, the author mentions Moro’s new “florid geometry,” and places Le tout Pérou somewhere between an archaic colonial past and an indigenous Peru located in the interior of the country, a combination that essentially creates the “irresistible freshness” of his work.
This is a partial transcript of an article by “Francis de Miomandre,” the pseudonym used by the French writer Francis Durand (1880–1959), the distinguished translator of Spanish literature (Cervantes, Calderón de la Barca, and Unamuno). The article is about the group exhibition of work by four Latin American painters: Santos Balmori (Spanish-Mexican), Jaime Colson (Dominican), Isaías Cabezón (Chilean), and César Moro (Peruvian), at the Cabinet Maldoror in Brussels. In Peru, the 1920s ushered in avant-garde expression, albeit influenced by the “decadent” aestheticism of local modernist graphic illustration: a language marked by symbolist suggestions, a taste for the fantastic, and a strongly decorative flair. Some draftsmen and painters assimilated elements of Cubism and Futurism, and even reached out to Surrealism. These works fit comfortably in the field of literary illustration and were also compatible with the prevailing indigenist approach in Peruvian painting. Most exponents went to Europe in search of modern metropolitan movements. The first to leave was Carlos Quízpez Asín (1900–1983), who studied at the Academia de San Fernando de Madrid (1921). While he was in Paris, Quízpez was exposed to Cubism, which strongly influenced his later, mature painting, leading him to embrace a rigorous classicism along the lines of the postwar rappel à l’ordre. When he returned to Lima in 1927, he brought with him a critical view of indigenism, but his subsequent move to the United States prevented him from having a major influence on the local scene in Peru. Two years earlier his brother Alfredo—better known as “César Moro” (1903–1956)—left Lima and went to Paris. Once there he took part in a group exhibition in Brussels in 1926, and the following year he exhibited with Jaime Colson at the Cabinet Maldoror in Paris. After meeting André Breton and Paul Eluard, he became an active member of the Surrealist movement. Juan Devéscovi and Jorge Seoane also went to Paris (in 1927 and 1928, respectively). While Seoane went to Spain to study medicine, Devéscovi had some success exhibiting with the poet Xavier Abril (1905–1990) at the Maison de l’Amérique Latine in Paris; this exhibition also traveled to Madrid. Meanwhile, Emilio Goyburu (1897–1962) remained in Lima, although this did not prevent him from becoming a radical member of the avant-garde. Although these painters never managed to create a movement that offered an alternative to indigenism, they nonetheless played important roles in the Peruvian art world. Some of them came up with original interpretations of the Peruvian Pre-Columbian heritage that (as distinct from ethnographic expressions or archeological reconstructions) challenged the premise of what was referred to as “national” art in those days.