Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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Synopsis

A visit to the salon of Antonio Fabrés’ students inspires the author to praise the master and his teaching methods, whose rigor in drafting and striking subjectivity had trampled the old methods of the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes (formerly the Academy of San Carlos). The author of the review, contrasts the present brilliant show with the tragic past of that institution, one that up till then he had continued to despise. At that time, the Catalan master was serving as the director of Painting in the school; Antonio Rivas Mercado, director of the ENBA, had leveled numerous criticisms against Fabrés’ methods with incessant hostility for the two years since he had joined the staff. This article records José Juan Tablada’s first criticism of Diego Rivera’s works, as well as some of the first comments on Saturnino Herrán, Roberto Montenegro, Francisco de la Torre, Alberto Garduño and Antonio Gómez, among others. A new era in Mexican painting began with this exhibition. And the critic knew how to publicize it when writing: “The recent efforts of the government, the leadership of the minister, the savvy dispositions . . . have transformed the paralysis of life, and the proof of it is the robust vitality can be found in the ‘salon’ that today exhibits the works of professor Fabrés’ students to the public.”

Annotations

This article is of the greatest significance for the art criticism disseminated by José Juan Tablada (1871-1945), given that it marks the beginning of his laudatory tone regarding the Academy. He bases this tone on the results of an educational transformation that later would bear fruit in the participating artists, without forgetting the open, or at times, concealed, complicity of the poet through his work as a critic, historian, promoter and curator of Mexican art. 
The Catalan master Antonio Fabrés (1854-1936) embodied the modernist expectations that Tablada and many avant-garde artists and critics had at that time. He sided with the individual who introduced photography as a pictorial model. Fabrés would shortly thereafter resign due to his disagreements with the institution’s director, architect Antonio Rivas Mercado (1853-1927), concerning the use of new teaching methods in painting that were more dynamic and connected to immediate visual reality. It is quite possible that Tablada influenced the new sub-secretary of Public Education, Justo Sierra—who was eventually elevated to the head of the department—so that he could reorganize the Academia de San Carlos. 

This text documents the rise of one of the most brilliant generations of painters in our history, as well as Tablada’s ideas and virtues, a critic who was well placed to witness the evolution of art and its complications. The document is also very useful for investigating the reach of Tablada’s influence exercised over the development of the avant-garde in Mexico. Cross-referenced with his diary and his memoirs, his friendships with Fabrés, and Montenegro (since childhood) stand out, as well as his closeness to Justo Sierra and his niece, Evangelina Sierra, whom he would later marry. 

Researcher
Luis Rius Caso
Team
CURARE, Espacio crítico para las artes, Mexico City, Mexico
Credit
Courtesy of Instituto de Investigaciones Filológicas, Universidad Autónoma de México, Mexico City
Location
Fondo Reservado del Instituto de Investigaciones Bibliográficas : Biblioteca Nacional/Hemeroteca Nacional