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In this essay, Emilio Goyburu divides Western painting into periods on the basis of its “aesthetic facet.” He defines four “ages” that he envisions as a progression. In its “primitive” age—or genesis—painting acted as a “graphic language” that served “human ends,” mostly of a religious nature. That “aesthetic imprecision” came to an end with the Italian Renaissance—“an enormously important phenomenon” that gave rise to the “philo-naturalist age.” The aim of that second age was “to copy nature as closely as possible” by means of perspective and of chiaroscuro. The end of the 19th century witnessed the emergence of the “visual age,” where mimetic virtuosity was eschewed for the sake of “sheer play” of “pictorial elements in order to obtain the beauty intrinsic to the painting.” Goyburu believes that Cubism entailed an organization of that conquest and the struggle to move into another phase without foregoing entirely “a tie to the figurative.” That tie was finally broken with Wassily Kandinsky’s abstract works and spiritual writings. Kandinsky’s art and texts indicate “an ethics but, mostly, the revelation of a previously unknown world with vast potential.” The “only nonnegotiable stipulation” in this fourth age—the abstract age—is the creation of a “new universe” on the sole basis of the artist’s “aesthetic faculty” and “inner need.” In short, for Goyburu the abstract age “is in keeping with our era and with the future; it not only develops in an endless and endlessly varied world, but also reaches the same level as the most spiritual arts.”


A group of artists committed to modernism—among them outstanding painters Carlos Quizpez Asín (1900–83) and Ricardo Sánchez (1912–81)—launched the journal Plástica in Lima in 1951; just three issues were published over the course of one year. Though short-lived, the publication played an important role in communicating avant-garde tendencies at the height of the debate on abstract art—a polemic that began in May 1951 pursuant to statements by painter Fernando de Szyszlo (Lima, b. 1925) [see in the ICAA digital archive “Dice Fernando Szyszlo que no hay pintores en el Perú ni América…” (doc. no. 1137793); and others]. Painter Emilio Goyburu (1897–1958) was one of the most enthusiastic contributors to Plástica. He was known for his adherence to the incipient avant-garde in the Peruvian capital and for his work with a Cubist bent produced as early as the twenties. Goyburu’s commitment to modernism is evident not only in his groundbreaking support of abstraction, but also in a series of texts that communicated that tendency’s tenets. This article attests to the utopian character of “non-figurative” postulates, understood as an annulment of the past and, in its own eyes, as a progressive and inexhaustible strain of modernism.


[For additional information, see the following texts by Goyburu: “Un nuevo prejuicio (?)” (doc. no. 1150326), “Vivencias estéticas en la pintura abstracta” (doc. no. 859970), “Un nuevo monumento en Lima” (doc. no. 1143291), and “El color en las diversas artes” (doc. no. 859948)].

Ricardo Kusunoki
Museo de Arte de Lima, Lima, Peru
Courtesy of a private archive, Lima, Peru