Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art Home


Document first page thumbnail
  • ICAA Record ID
    El Pintor Roberto Montenegro / EMILIO ABREU GOMEZ (sic) [Director Gabriel Fernández Ledesma, Representante del Criterio Artístico de la Secretaría de Educación : Salvador Novo]
    Forma : Revista de Artes Plásticas (México, D. F., México). -- Vol.II, no. 7 (1928)
    p. 28-36 : ill.
    Journal article – Essays
    Abreu Gómez, Emilio. "El Pintor Roberto Montenegro." Forma: Revista de artes plásticas (Mexico City) 2, no.7 (1928): 28-36.

The writer Ermilo Abreu Gómez recommends a two-pronged approach to understanding the work of Roberto Montenegro. The first would consider his role as an illustrator of books and periodicals as from 1908 when he began working in Paris with Paul Iribe at Le Temoin, where Jean Cocteau was also an illustrator. The second would focus on the etchings Montenegro produced in Spain where he was considered one of the finest Spanish engravers. His work in Spain showed that he was not only a skilled craftsman but that he also knew how to give his etchings an aristocratic seal of distinction conveyed by the delicacy of his work that the author considers “very Mexican.” In about 1921—as the pictorial revolution mushroomed in Mexico—Montenegro began a new phase as a mural painter. Several libraries would thus be graced with his work, including the Biblioteca Hispanomericana; he also produced the Decoración sobre muros en el Edificio de San Pedro y San Pablo [Murals in the Building of Saint Peter and Saint Paul] and painted the murals in the “main hall” at the office of the Minister of Public Education, José Vasconcelos. In Abreu’s opinion, time would either confirm the quality of this painter’s work or, if it were insignificant, would erase it.  


In this article, Ermilo Abreu Gómez (1894-1971), a career writer and diplomat, neither praises Roberto Montenegro (1887-1968) nor treats him harshly. He seems to have only partially reviewed the artist’s work at a time when the “decoration of walls” had already become a battlefield. For example, he does not tell us how, in about 1928, Montenegro managed to replace the portrait of José Vasconcelos (1882-1959)—where he was shown holding the standard of the University—with the image of a beautiful indigenous woman carrying it, as can be seen today. As a good diplomat, Abreu Gómez preferred not to be involved in the controversy or to discuss the rifts that had emerged between the painters who had stood united behind Vasconcelos in 1921.   Forma magazine did not deem it appropriate to use the term “censor” to refer to the representative of artistic opinion.

Esther Acevedo : Dirección de Estudios Históricos, INAH / CURARE A. C.
CURARE, Espacio crítico para las artes, Mexico City, Mexico
Courtesy of Yamile Paz Paredes Camacho, Mexico City, México
Instituto de Investigaciones Bibliográficas : Biblioteca Nacional/Hemeroteca Nacional