Topic: Religious Art
Religious painting and the history of the South American people.......
The South American subcontinent at the moment of the Spanish conquest was populated by an extremely developed civilization, the Incas.
Not only were the Incas south America’s largest and strongest Empire in economic terms, but specially in political-religious ones. The homogeneity of this dominant culture can be perfectly appreciated in these people’s artwork. The artistic conception prevalent was by far a very developed one, featuring not only a master domain of technique and appliances, but also a complex aesthetic conception of abstraction, reflection of reality and view of the world. Sacred art was –as in every historical culture before modernity- the main theme, whereas society as a whole was reflected from a religious point of view.
In the Andes region were the Inca Empire developed all the way from Santiago de Chile thru the North West Argentine provinces, Peru, Bolivia, all the way to Ecuador, the main artistic means of expression were frescos, stone engraving, and paint on sacred vases or such.
A second moment within this area’s artistic development will be the one that breaks through the evolution continuity that had prevailed in the region with the Spanish military, religious, political and economic conquest. Spaniards brought with them their conception of Art and aesthetics, techniques and products. By far the turning point is the canvass, for it did not exist in the region prior to the Spanish arrival.
The conquest implied a domain not only of the politics and economy, but also of the mind and hopefully of the soul, hence, the sacred aboriginal art of yore was displaced from under the spotlight and replaced with Catholic religious art. This displacement is frequently addressed as trans-cultural-ication, for all the ancient techniques and styles were doomed to disappear from the scene, outcast by European styles mainly from Flanders and Spain. The most influencing styles were Renaissance and Mannerism.
But we shouldn’t be deceived by this apparently sole domain of Europe’s fine art styles and techniques. For there wasn’t just a one way influence in this sort of art, especially if we take into consideration a very important fact, that being that the great majority of Colonial artists were local aborigines from the great convents of the area. Syncretism is the key word here. If looked at carefully, Colonial religious art might on the surface be similar to European baroque or renaissance, but from a closer approach there’s a great number of details such as the local scene, animals, physical stereotype, etc, that emerge from the so called European imposed technique.
During the last century of the colonial domain, a new sort of art would emerge from the lower social status group that would be a style much more marked by the aboriginal past, evident in the choosing of color, style and motifs, as well as in technical style for being these artists further away of the orbit of the European power, the school lines would be much more freely in interpretation.
Decorative and descriptive, brighter and larger, these interpretations will transcend the Colony into the Independent times as a specific style of new nation art.
Dating these sorts of paintings is indeed complicated, but one clear indication that stands upon the more technical aspects is a theme variation. While during the Colony religious art was very much linked to the church as an institution and its Saints, the Independent period religious art tends to reflect religion from a custom like point of view, known as Costumbrismo.
See Image Gallery for Religious Painting:
Religious Painting of South America & Argentina
See Image Gallery for Saint Francis found in Argentina:
Saint Francis of Assisi, found in Argentina
NOTE: We will soon post the second part to this research on Argentine traditional religious art. Please feel free to contact us requesting any specific style or artist, for we will work aiming to provide articles as through as possible.
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