The weekly magazine El Gráfico, one of the earliest modern publications in Colombia, first appeared on July 20, 1910 under the direction of the Abadía brothers and Abraham Cortés, pioneering typesetters who introduced new styles in advertising graphic design. The magazine’s first issue was so popular that it was reprinted three times. El Gráfico was published for 31 years, until 1941, and during that time it featured reports on all manner of local events, including: “En el Salón de Pintura” [At the Painting Salon] (1919), an article on the exhibition organized by Ricardo Borrero Álvarez (1874-1931), a landscape artist trained in the style of the Spanish masters, whose tenure as director of the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes [National School of Fine Arts], beginning in 1918, was a clear indication of the prevailing aestheticism of the period.
The review of the 1919 Salon—which oddly enough did not include works by masters such as Coriolano Leudo Obando (1866-1957), who had until then been the director of the Escuela de Pintura de Popayán [Popayan School of Painting]—reflected the Spanish tradition that had so influenced painting in Colombia in the early twentieth century. The reviewer was critical of the artists’ application of technique in genres such as: (I) Landscape: represented by the melancholy environments painted by Jesús María Zamora (1871-1948) and the bucolic paintings by Borrero Álvarez, who so rigorously “transfers” the image of the places he portrays. (II) History: Ricardo Moros Urbina (1865-1942) exhibited a neatly executed version of the Pantano de Vargas [The Vargas Swamp] which, according to the author, “communicated nothing [to his feelings].” (III) Portraits: it is strange to note the reviewer’s interest in works by María Antonia Cuervo—who studied under Leudo and Ricardo Gómez Campuzano (1891-1981)—and Magola Montaña, both of whom were fleeting “representatives of the fair sex” at the Arts School, and whom he showered with compliments. Finally, the reviewer has nothing but caustic criticism for the painter from Bogota Fídolo Alfonso González Camargo (1883-1941), whose “internal vision” sets him apart from Spanish influences. González Camargo was nonetheless awarded a “Second Class Diploma” at this event for his La Lectora [The Reader] (1919) barely two years after he retired from the art world, for health reasons.
The review also discusses the very new architecture section that includes drawings by Pablo de la Cruz (1894-1954), who was responsible for the Instituto Pedagógico Nacional para Señoritas [National Pedagogical Institute for Young Women] (1927) and the famous work Villa Adelaida (1914-1917), the Republican piece designed in accordance with the pedagogical theories of the “New School;” that is, to educate beyond the classroom, in public environments.