October 2014

Nineteenth Century Popular Paintings in Cochabamba

According to art historian Teresa Gisbert, and as mentioned in her text ‘Bolivian Art of the XIX Century’, popular religious painting developed during the War of Independence and was consolidated after the founding of the Republic in 1825, at the same time as the removal of most religious orders through a resolution dictated by José Antonio de Sucre in 1826.

By: Walter Sánchez C.

Photo: Courtsey of Walter Sanchez, INIAM-UMSS

These events paralyzed the production of religious art associated with the church due to the persecution that priests, who supported the realistic cause, suffered. A large part of religious ritualism, both indigenous and cholo-mestizo, no longer depended on the church but on personal, family, community, and other group demands. These new contexts made smaller conventional religious paintings popular. These were painted on zinc sheets, which were acquired by the soldiers who marched to war or participated in the “revolutions.” Virgins, saints, and Jesus Christ appear as protective deities for the soldiers, as well as for the loved ones who remain in their homes. According to Gisbert, “This is when a painting depicts a patron on his knees asking the Virgin and the saints to spare his and his family’s lives. Virgins that were prayed to for the safety of soldiers, such as Our Lady of Carmen and the Virgin of Mercy, became popular and are still venerated today as the patronesses of armies.”

In Cochabamba, where participation of mestizos in the battles of independence was important, popular religious art developed mainly in two places: Tarata and Arani. Tarata, since colonial times and during the 19th century, was a place where landowners and mestizo manufacturers lived. Its traditional art has a long history. It changed radically from the 17th century and became more popular with the presence of the Franciscan Convent built in the late 18th century. This influence was so obvious that some of the people of the area, known today as Moqopata, were artisans, master painters and carpenters of small art pieces known as cajones, who sold their products in the town, and growing market of Cliza. It was here where a large number of settlers and farm leasers arrived weekly from their farms; mule owners from the Andes were the ones that acquired both paintings as well as crafts for their own personal use, or to be exchanged for goods in other areas. Arani was another important religious center during the 16th century; this was where they prayed to the Virgin, Our Blessed Beautiful Lady. This community had an important agenda, carried out by master painters and sculptors whose works were very much sought after, mainly by peasant settlers and farm owners and indigenous people who lived in the highland communities and attended the festivity annually.

Photo: Courtsey of Walter Sanchez, INIAM-UMSS

There are three types of popular paintings. The first one has to do with a marine thematic, among them: the Virgin of Copacabana, Our Blessed Beautiful Lady and, during the last half of the 19th century, Our Lady of Patronage in Tarata. The second type of art is associated with Jesus Christ and his many names, highlighting thematic links to The Just One and the Lord of Judgment. Both types of paintings followed the same format and theme, with small changes in regard to the decoration, since they were produced “in a series.” A third type of painting, more personalized, was carried out by request, and included civilian figures as opposed to religious ones. Master artists of this type of painting were allowed much greater freedom to include aesthetic elements of themselves through the representation of landscapes, indigenous musicians playing musical instruments, dancers or scenes where characters appear doing community work or crafting.

All of this popular art reached its greatest splendor in the second half of the 19th century, only to disappear almost entirely at the beginning of the 1890s. Its decline had to do with the arrival of the railroad to the mines of Potosi. On the one hand, it closed the commercial routes that connected Tarata and Arani with the people from the highlands, mainly miners -and with that, the demand for all popular religious art productionand on the other hand, it allowed access to a large number of European images that were acquired by both urban and provincial elites. Another important factor was the growth of photographic images of saints and virgins in the festivals that became much cheaper to purchase than the images painted on metal plates.

The 20th century gave birth to a new form of visual art that was dissociated from the mestizo masters in the villages and the towns of the provinces, but was linked to the requirements of the elite of the now thriving city of Cochabamba. This development would later be associated to the 19th century tradition of oil painting and sketching. Landscaping would be acceptable only from 1910 onwards, with strong influences from photographic landscaping; although, one must also recognize the impacts of the 21st century European and popular paintings.

Calendario OCTUBRE 2014

6 de octubre 19h
«Versailles rive gauche»
Ingreso libre

13 de octubre 19h
«Bancos públicos (Versailles rive droite)»
Ingreso Libre

20 de Octubre 19h
“Belle épine”
Ingreso libre

25 de Agosto 19h
“Un hombre que grita”
Ingreso libre

1ero de Octubre 19:00
Entrega de premios y inauguración de la exposición :
“Todos nacemos libres, ellos también”
Proyecto de educación ambiental “Latidos Silvestres”
Lunes a Viernes: 9:00 a 12:30 y 15:00 a 19:30 Sábado 9:00 a 12:30 Hasta el 8 de octubre.

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