In this text, one art critic reviews the work of another: Roberto Pizano Restrepo (1896–1929) was an artist, art critic, and cultural manager; and Gustavo Santos was an art critic, pianist, and writer. Each had set and opposing ideas about the Colombian art scene. Santos saw art as the product of the artist’s spirit and personality, analyzing the connections between the artist and his work. He also pointed out the fallacies of criticism and art appreciation in Bogotá, contrasting European art and its pursuits to the parochialism of local interpretations. Unlike Santos, Pizano based his assessment of aesthetic value on skill resulting from academic training, and the study of classic masterpieces and of Colombian art and its tradition. On these grounds, he maintained, it was possible to give shape to a field of production that, though devoid of resources and extremely limited, attempted to legitimize a vision of art that opposed incipient Modernism.
A prominent figure, Gustavo Santos was one of the first art critics in Colombia in the first half of the 20th century. His writings are largely reflections on the artist’s craft and sources of inspiration, as well as discussions of historical and current points of reference from European art. His approach always entails a comparison with the local art scene.
Roberto Pizano studied at the Academia de San Fernando in Madrid, Spain, until 1920. He was the director of the Escuela de Bellas Artes and cofounder of the Círculo de Bellas Artes in Bogotá. He was responsible for the idea of a museum of reproductions of European masterpieces, which was geared to the communication of art as well as art education, specifically of students at the Escuela de Bellas Artes. The influence of luminism—especially of Sorolla—on his work is evident, as is the academic verism characteristic of Colombian art in the early 20th century.
This text is not a critical discussion; the first exhibition by Pizano reviewed by Santos was, rather, an inaugural event that defined and assessed the value of this artist’s early work, predicting a future of success on the basis of technical mastery, cultural knowledge, and ability to engage in self-criticism. Due to Pizano’s early death, it would never be possible to corroborate Santos’s predictions.