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This [document is a commentary by] Mercedes Gallagher de Parks on artistic activities in Lima during the summer of 1943, including plays by Louis Jouvet, performances of Coronel de Bassil’s Russian ballet, and concerts by the Sociedad Filarmónica de Lima. In the field of visual arts, the author has high praise for the exhibition at the I Salón Municipal while regretting certain logistical deficiencies in its organization and the jury’s “pictorial indigenophobia” (which she considers unacceptable at a local level). She defends the winner of the first prize, José Gutiérrez Infantas, from what she describes as a “pseudo-critical all-nighter” that rejected any work with an elementary knowledge of drawing as “photographic” or “pompier.” What is objectionable is not its pompier academicism, but its imitation that is devoid of any personal feeling. When sincerity is elevated to the level of a major artistic principle, Gallagher wonders whether Diego Rivera or the French artist Nicolas Poussin can be imitated. She cautions that imitation of the Mexican artist, due to its lack of sincerity, has become “a genuine danger for our art because it is what threatens our most promising Peruvian painters.” Hoping it is a passing fad, she attacks doctrinaire approaches in art as another sign of worldwide decadence in art; she also deplores the fact that three “magnificent” canvases by Enrique Camino Brent have been ignored.


In 1943, after a period of virtually nonexistent government support, the I Salón Municipal de Lima was an attempt to provide some official promotion for the arts. In spite of that, many artists refused to participate in the event because of the overwhelmingly conservative taste of the jury that was presided over by the influential academic painter Enrique Domingo Barreda. Although Barreda began his critical review of the Primer Salón with an attack on the indigenist painting that still flourished in Peru at that time, his subsequent remarks addressed the academic criteria involved in choosing the prizewinners. As boosters of modern art, Juan Ríos and Raúl María Pereira (1916–2007) criticized the success of the “photographic” style of José Gutiérrez Infantas (1897–1997), whose defense was championed by Mercedes Gallagher de Parks (1883–1950), a conservative intellectual. Pereira’s reply then undercut the assumption of a current transcendent academism by (tacitly) suggesting that there is a necessary relationship between art and modernity. In this paradoxical way, the “academicist” bias that influenced the results of the competition foreshadowed the final retreat of that movement from the Peruvian scene, despite the mentorship role played by its critics and artists during the previous decade. That advance of modernism, however, also led to the loss of official support for indigenist painting whose founder, José Sabogal (1888–1956), was dismissed from his position as director of the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes a few months later.

Ricardo Kusunoki
Museo de Arte de Lima, Lima, Peru
Courtesy of the Estate of Mercedes Gallagher de Parks, Lima, Peru