Romero Brest, Jorge. El primer Salón Municipal de Artes Plásticas. Edit. Intendencia Municipal de Montevideo. 1940. 30 págs.
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While art critic Jorge Romero Brest’s influence was international in scope, it was particularly great in Latin America and the Río de la Plata region. His regional prestige as a lecturer was also considerable and, in 1940, he was invited to give a talk in Montevideo on the Primer Salón Municipal de Artes Plásticas, which took place that year. The contents of that show were thought to be representative of the state of Uruguayan art at the time. This document is the text that Romero Brest wrote at the request of the Comisión Municipal de Cultura de Montevideo after having delivered that lecture. Since the talk was not written prior to its delivery, the text is not a transcription, but a reconstruction put together soon afterwards. As such, it enjoys, perhaps, the benefit of assessments and/or terms honed later.
A lawyer and physical education teacher, Jorge Romero Brest (1905–89) began his teaching career in art history and criticism in 1939 at the Universidad de La Plata in Argentina. In September of that same year, he wrote a series entitled “Guía para visitar el Salón Nacional de Artes Plásticas” for the periodical La Vanguardia (the bulletin of the Argentinean Socialist Party). The articles in that series attempted to educate the general public about Argentinean art. In those texts, Romero Brest categorized the works on exhibit in that Argentinean salon according to theme addressed.
When, in 1940, he was invited to Montevideo to give a lecture on the recently opened Primer Salón Municipal de Artes Plásticas—an initiative of painter César Pesce Castro, the director of the Museo Juan Manuel Blanes at the time—Romero Brest devised categories for the works that conceptualized his assessments. The first of those categories revolves around the themes addressed and the “expressive content” of their treatment; the broadest areas within that category are “Naturalism” and “Creationism” (a term first applied by Guillaume Apollinaire). The second category revolves around “expressive support.” In it, the author contemplates both the rigor of the artists’ treatment of genres (figurative typology) and their treatment of material and color. The third category addresses “how the works are produced,” that is, technique. With the verbosity and complexity characteristic of his discourse, Romero Brest is highly critical of the “ingenuous”—and fairly outdated—state of Uruguayan art. Regardless of his categories—which are most certainly debatable—the critic ventures a totalizing analysis of the vast range of themes, techniques, and personal intentions characteristic of salons of this sort. [On that subject, see in the ICAA digital archive Cipriano S. Vitureira’s “1er Salón Municipal de Artes Plásticas” (doc. no. 1184568)].