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    "Julia Codesido y Sabogal son buenos pintores" : Aquilles Ralli cree, además, que muchos sólo buscan la fama por medio de la publicidad
    La Prensa: diario independiente de la mañana (Lima, Perú). -- Jun. 18, 1951
    Newspaper article – Essays

Painter Aquiles Ralli rejects the comments made by Fernando de Szyszlo that became a national scandal: “there are no painters in Peru.” He juxtaposes the work of the “good artists,” those who diligently “work in silence and never advertise themselves,” with what he believes to be Szyszlo’s sensationalist and publicity-seeking attitude. In his opinion, the Peruvian indigenist artists (José Sabogal and Julia Codesido, who both taught Ralli) are the only two true painters in the nation, given that “all the rest merely paint.” He states that imitation is an easy recourse for those artists who lack inspiration, an attitude which is made worse by the dissemination of theories that legitimize all types of artistic proposals. He questions the value of reproduction: “what is already made cannot be considered an artistic activity, but is rather a manual activity.” Although he admires great artists, Ralli rejects any type of copy because the career of any man or artist is, in his judgment, non-transferable.


This is painter Aquiles Ralli’s intervention into the debate caused by the controversial declarations of Fernando de Szyszlo—“there are no painters in Peru”—published by La Prensa newspaper (Lima, June 2, 1951) about the exhibition of abstract paintings at the Sociedad de Arquitectos del Perú in the Peruvian capital.

Within the Peruvian context, the debate on abstract art began with the controversy caused by the declarations of painter Fernando de Szyszlo (b. 1925) upon his return from Paris in 1951, with his famous statement that “there are no painters in Peru” [see in the ICAA digital archive “Dice Fernando de Syszlo que no hay pintores en el Peru ni América: el joven pintor peruano declara sentir su pintura y la de los demás pero no puede explicarla (doc. no. 1137793)]. Nevertheless, the debate reached its greatest intensity during 1954 and 1955 due to the contributions of architect Luis Miró Quesada Garland (1914–94) and the writer Sebastián Salazar Bondy (1924–65), the principal ideologues of the antagonism between abstract and realist art, respectively. Their first argument was motivated by the controversial show of contemporary Italian painters at the Galería de Lima in May 1954. The non-figurative language of these works were unheard of then; especially with regard to Alberto Burri’s (1915–95) experiments with “cheap” materials. These incurred criticisms from Antonio Flórez Estrada (1898–1954) [see his article “De arte: la muestra de óleos de pintores italianos contemporáneos en la Galería de Lima” (doc. no. 858745)] and Salazar Bondy, who both refuted the significance of abstract art. The opposing response came from Luis Miró Quesada Garland [see “Opinión sobre las críticas al arte abstracto” (doc. no. 858807)] which caused a sharp interchange with Salazar Bondy, who championed the artist’s social commitment through works of art.

[For additional information, see also the following texts by Salazar Bondy, under the pseudonym “Juan Eye”, all entitled “Artes plásticas: sobre arte abstracto” (doc. no. 858965), (doc. no. 859038), and (doc. no. 859095). See as well Miró Quesada Garland’s articles “Sobre el arte abstracto” (doc. no. 858994) and (doc. no. 859071)].

Ricardo Kusunoki
Museo de Arte de Lima, Lima, Peru