Latin American exhibition of fine and applied art. Exh. cat., New York: Riverside Museum, 1940.
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In this 1940 catalogue, which is organized according to country, short descriptive texts precede checklists of the works included in the exhibition. The following countries are represented: Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, and Venezuela. Descriptive texts briefly review the histories of the development of art in each country, including the founding of Academies during the nineteenth century, the location of centers for the production of painting, and government support institutions for the arts. They also note the direction of contemporary art in each country, emphasizing, for example, artists’ growing interest in landscape in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela or artists’ engagement with “Indian” themes and forms in Ecuador and Mexico.
This catalogue documents an exhibition of Latin American art that was mounted at the Riverside Museum from July 23 to October 20, 1940, and was sponsored by the United States’ New York World’s Fair Commission (1939-40). Introduced with an outstanding statement by Franklin Delano Roosevelt that “All cultural efforts to promote the mutual understanding of the Americas have my interest and hearty support,” the catalogue also features an introduction and foreword by Henry A. Wallace and Dr. L. S. Rowe, the directors of both the World’s Fair (New York) and the Pan American Union (Washington, D. C.), respectively. The exhibition was part of the U.S. government’s program to promote cultural exchange and maintain influence in Latin America during World War II. The occasion of the New York World’s Fair was taken advantage of as an opportunity to promote Latin American art and culture to U.S. audiences, and to propagate the idea of Latin America and the U.S. as part of the same, great Pan-American culture. The results, as can be seen in this show, often stressed picturesque aspects of Latin America and featured officially favored artists, such as Candido Portinari (1903-62) of Brazil, or favored countries with which the U.S. had the strongest economic and political ties, such as Mexico and Venezuela. Lastly, while most of the texts assume little knowledge about Latin America on the part of the reader, Mexico is treated as a well-known entity to U.S. audiences, who had, as it notes, grown very familiar with the Mexican muralists during the past decade (1930s).