The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
The art critic Fernando García Esteban discusses the XVI Salón Nacional de Artes Plásticas, closely inspecting the paintings presented by each of the participating artists. He describes what he sees as the “epigonal poverty” of Uruguayan painting in the early 1950s and, especially, the style of art criticism that seems somewhat anachronistic for the period. His critique, though written with the visual arts in mind, centers on a conventional literature that is thrilled to be focused on the material and chromatic aspects of making art.
From the early 1950s to the late 1960s the art critic Fernando García Esteban (1917–82) was a dominant force on the subject of art criticism through his books and his incessant work as a journalist. In the 1950s he shared the privilege of being a critic with José Pedro Argul (1903–74) and together they started a kind of historiography of the country’s twentieth-century art. This article by García Esteban—that includes a detailed study of each painter and each of the works exhibited at the XVI Salón Nacional (the first version to be organized by the Comisión Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1937)—exposes an analytical methodology. The author rates values based strictly on visual art criteria. Of prime importance are the concepts of “formal composition,” “chromatic application,” “fillings,” “tonal gradation,” and a series of categories that are essentially tributaries of an academic legacy that, paradoxically, those art critics fought against in the 1950s. That was when a confluence of highly personal feelings set figuration and abstraction at loggerheads, an issue that critics, having provided nothing from a doctrinal or philosophical plane, failed to clarify.
A common reader would find García Esteban’s article hard to understand, despite its intention to use the artist to which it is constantly referring as interlocutor. This article was selected to present a dialogue between art and the critics in the early 1950s, keeping in mind the paucity of the conceptual repertoire that each was using at that time.