This article was published in1948, which was an exciting year in Venezuela because the writer Rómulo Gallegos (author of the novel Doña Bárbara, among other works), was elected president, ushering in a climate of democratic modernization and support for popular values. The new mood of cultural nationalism was reflected in events such as the Fiesta de la Tradición, organized by the poet Juan Liscano and featuring folklore groups from all over the country, and the exhibition Pintura Latinoamericana Moderna (organized by the Cuban critic José Gómez Sicre). Both of these events were held in Caracas, and contributed to a burgeoning spirit of institutional renewal that had been growing ever since the death of the last dictator of that period, Juan Vicente Gómez, in 1935. These circumstances help to explain why the chance discovery of an artist such as Feliciano Carvallo (1920?2012, who was 28 years old at the time)—a poor working man living on the Caribbean coast who was also (keeping in mind the racial prejudice of the time), a black man of African descent—was proof of the new, more open attitudes that were being influenced by an appreciation for the art of primitive peoples, as expressed by painters such as Gauguin and Picasso.
This new mood also explains why the Venezuelan poet and journalist Víctor Alberto Grillet (1920–76) appealed to the populist spirit of the new administration, asking for official assistance for this “humble worker” from Naiguatá whose aesthetic universe, in Grillet’s opinion, was “untainted” (in other words, untouched by highbrow culture). Paradoxical as it may seem, however, what Grillet was actually requesting was art schooling and better materials so that his talent might (hypothetically) be fully developed.
Twenty years after being “discovered,” Feliciano Carvallo received the Premio Nacional de Pintura (the other strong contender was Carlos Cruz-Diez) and represented Venezuela at the Bienal de São Paulo. This article was published in Fuentes documentales y críticas de las artes plásticas venezolanas (2001), by Roldán Esteva-Grillet.