February 2015

From portraits to landscape by Avelino G. Nogales

The XIX century is the century of massive “popular” painting production in Bolivia. Furthermore, it can be pointed out as the century of popular painting. Dozens of cholo-mestizo painters lived in the main villages: they used to make paintings in small formats over zinc sheets with images of Virgins, Saints and Christ. The continuous revolutions and wars like the Pacific War between Peru and Bolivia against Chile (1879), are among other events that generated the demand of a big quantity of religious paintings that were carried in soldiers’ back pack as a protective entity. This plastic art, although it keeps many formal elements and esthetics as baroque colonial paintings, resembles landscape paintings due to its background.

By: Walter Sánchez C.
Instituto de Investigaciones

Portraits of the late nineteenth century
Photos Credits: Courtesy of INIAM

This is also the century in which the Bolivian Republic opened to the world; this caused pictorial art of the elites to suffer from the influences, mainly from Europe, that started to appear. Therefore, in the downtown cities the style of portraits with pencil or oil was consolidated, and the paintings about religious subjects were abandoned. Two influences are the ones that mark the development of portraits; on the one hand we have the European neoclassicism that spread throughout all America; on the other hand, the photography, mainly of the cartés de visité type.

It is in this context of strong esthetic-formal changes in the plastic and visual production that teacher Avelino G. Nogales (Potosi, 1870-Cochabamba, 1948) developed education. When he was very young, he moved to the city of Cochabamba. We do not know who his first teachers were.

Portraits of the late nineteenth century
Photos Credits: Courtesy of INIAM

His granddaughter, in one article, “El Legado del Abuelo, Don Avelino G. Nogales” (2012), points out “he finished his studies in Buenos Aires, specializing in portraits.” It is possible that these studies could have been to specialize because by the end of the 1890s, he was a master portrayer. Moreover, it was known that he was living in Argentina in 1900 where, during that year he won two competitions that were carried out by the Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires (Sociedad de Estímulo de Bellas Artes de Buenos Aires): 1) First Prize in Drawing class in the category of “all natural, life model” and 2) Second Prize in the “painting class.” Both prizes show that he had an elevated level of technique in drawing and painting. During this phase, it is possible to recognize two influences in his work: the European neoclassicism and photographic portraits.

Even though he is recognized as the most important portrayer of the end of the XIX century and the beginning of the XX century, he was an outstanding landscaper.

Some of his historians state that his first steps in painting took place in the Private Academy of Drawing and Painting of the painter José García Mesa (Cochabamba, 1849 – La Paz, 1911), who opened his academy in 1900 when he returned from Europe (in a room in poet Félix del Granado’s home), when he was 30 years old. If we take into account his presence in Buenos Aires and his previous work (where it is evident that he was a very educated artist), it is more likely that he assisted this academy in order to learn new techniques in oil painting (which was reflected in his portraits of the first half of the XX century) to share his ability with art students like the poet Adela Zamudio, Justiniano Peredo, Moisés Calle Claure, Teodomiro Beltrán, David García, and Octavio Salamanca Urey. It is possible that as a result of the romantic influence, it was the moment in which he turned to landscaping, where a strong French romanticism aesthetic and a technique of free brushstroke that belongs to the impressionism is shown in his paintings.

Avelino G. Nogales signature
Photos Credits: Courtesy of INIAM

Recognized as a prominent portrayer in the first decade of the XX century, he is an acquaintance of the mine tycoon Simón I. Patiño for whom he painted many family portraits with oil. Recognizing his great qualities, it is this businessman who sponsored him so that he could finish his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Paris, where he arrived at a time when modernism begins to influence his works.

With all this technical baggage, Avelino G. Nogales, openedhis own Academy of drawing and painting in Cochabamba , between 1905 and 1920,. There he was the drawing and painting teacher of some of the most important Bolivian painters of the first half of the XX century: Raúl G. Prada and Cecilio Guzmán de Rojas, considering the last as the beginner of native paintings in Bolivia. Nicolás Fernández N., in his text “The life and the work of Cecilio Guzmán de Rojas” states the following about the relationship between Nogales and Guzmán de Rojas: “Born in Potosi, Guzmán de Rojas had to move to Cochabamba while he was still a child, but there he found his path, and two beginning artists, George Mattewie and the portrayer Avelino Nogales, who, under which his apprentice started drawing and painting at the age of 12. At 19, he already had enough knowledge of how to give a lecture about drawing in the city he born.”

Man portrait
Photos Credits: Courtesy of INIAM

Along with this work, Nogales carried out an intensive cultural life. With sculptor Alejandro Guardia and painter Luís Baya, they conformed the Circle of Fine Arts of Cochabamba, founded in 1923, a space dedicated to the promotion of plastic arts and theoretical debate. A lover of photography, he was a regular follower of the photographer Rodolfo Torrico Zamudio (“The tourist”).

Even dough he is recognized as the most important portrayer of the end of the XIX century and the beginning of the XX century, he was an outstanding landscaper. Unlike other painters he was characterized by the rural-peasants in his paintings(an example would be Octavio Salamanca Urey); His landscape show urban scenes and the interior of homes with people carrying out daily activities that, without a doubt , were influenced by the Europe modernism as it is emphasized by José Bedoya, in his text titled: “Avelino G. Nogales. The beginning of the modern painting in Bolivia” (2012).

Translated by: Eslyn Escudero
Translation edited by: Daniela Viljoen

Calendario FEBRERO 2015

Alianza Francesa, Calle La Paz nÂş784 casi CrisĂłstomo Carrillo
Hrs: 19:00
Ingreso libre

Directora: Mélanie Laurent. País: Francia. Año: 2014 Subtitulada en español
Hrs: 19:00
Ingreso libre

Alianza Francesa,
Hrs: 19:00
Ingreso libre

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