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Saturday, 22 Feb 2020


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61rf0When José Sabogal imposed the indigenist theme in Peruvian art, a group of artists rebuffed this dictatorship. Instead of reneging on the topic, they manifested their intention and conviction that the validity of all topics should be accepted.

The Peruvian painter José Sabogal, who immortalized popular scenes, was Director of the School of Fine Arts, from where he vigorously dominated the artistic scenery imposing the indigenes trend. Many artists felt to have been dislodged because they did not follow that expression and in order to expose their opinion they associated themselves in 1937 and opened the Gallery of the Independents that nowadays is the Museum of the Fine Arts of Lima. This was the first collective effort to present a proposal as alternative to Sabogal’s imposition.61rf1


The Independents’ leader was Ricardo Grau, who had recently returned from Europe. Other members were Oscar Allain, Francisco González Gamarra, Sérvulo Gutiérrez, Juan Barreto, Carlos More, Domingo Pantigoso, Víctor Humareda, Carlos Quíspez Asín, Federico Reinoso, Bernardo Rivero, Ricardo Sánchez, Adolfo Winternitz, and Sabino Springett. They did not express themselves with one and the same style nor had a common artistic program. Some were conventional artists, while others even worked on Andean themes. They simply grouped together with the purpose of professing the necessary freedom to explore these as well as other topics. In sum, they did not to give in to Sabogal’s dictatorship that imposed ''only the painting of cholos”, as indigenous peasants were called disdainfully by Sabogal’s detractors.



61rf2The group instead of intending to break away from the then fashionable indigenism, sought total democracy, under which whoever wanted could exhibit his or her artwork. But Sabogal only admitted exhibitions of students of the School of Fine Arts if their works conformed to the lines he had determined. It thus became necessary to create a special space for his dissidents.


In those days APRAism, the movement of the Peruvian American Revolutionary Popular Alliance emerged as populist force and so did its opponents, large landowners and rising industrialists. These were in contact with Europe and the United States and did not wish that Peru be invaded by indigenist paintings. They wanted Peruvian artists to create universal works, which would give an idea of progress and cosmopolitan nation. They furthered this generation of the “Independents” that a few years ago was recalled in Lima by a large exhibition of 72 artworks.


The salient leader of The Independents was Ricardo Grau (1907-1970), of genuine European education and intimate knowledge of the currents of his time. When he met and opposed the radicalized indigenism he reinforced his classical proclivity. As Director of the School of Fine Arts he furthered freedom of expression without disregarding the artists' national roots; he also revitalized portraiture.


Other members of this trend were Macedonio de la Torre (Trujillo 1893- 1982), who studied in Germany and Paris, where he befriended Picasso and Matisse. His works are expressionistic with an emphasis on composition. Also worth of special mention is Adolfo Winternitz (1906-1993), who founded the School of Plastic Arts of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and converted it into a center of high quality. He painted religious motifs, and was an extraordinary muralist and glass painter. Carlos Quízpez Asín (1900-1983), was a muralist,  who went to Spain and inspired his artwork in the Peruvian cultural ancestors. Also Juan Manuel Ugarte Elespuru loomed not only as a painter, but also as a muralist and sculptor, who after having studied in Buenos Aires enriched his knowledge in German and Spanish academies.

Another renowned artist is Alberto Dávila, who chose flat, linear and cubist designs more in his search of form and color instead of subject matters in se. His artworks are monumental and are part of important collections around the world. 

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