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High Art and High Ideals: The Museo Nacional de Pintura and the Development of Art in Chile, 1870-1890 Patience A. Schell
University of Manchester

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In 1872, El Mercurio reported on an argument among a group of young people regarding the inclusion of nudes in the fine arts section of the National Exhibition of the same year. As the argument progressed it became clear that the group was evenly divided into those who wanted the art taken down in the name of decency and those who believed the works could not damage innocence, as high art elevated one's thoughts. With opinion evenly divided, a young woman interjected that the painting that really ought to be taken down was a still-life of a watermelon. The still-life depicted an open melon, with one slice ready to be devoured and the knife still there, as if to cut another piece. The painting inspired strong cravings, particularly dangerous to pregnant women, and the young woman remarked that 'it is a cruel act to have put this temptation [in the exhibition]'. All present could agree that the watermelon had to go. (El Mercurio 30 Sept. 1872: 3) This light anecdote demonstrates to us perspectives on fine arts in late nineteenth-century Chile. For artists, collectors and critics, high art was every bit as crucial for national development as a sound economy: their debates about art maintained a serious tone. For others, probably including editorial staff at El Mercurio, art was a luxury without a role to play in national development, which did not merit government support and had no relation to everyday life. Aware of these incompatible opinions about fine art, artists and some elite citizens together set out to convince the oligarchic government, which had minimal interest in promoting art, and to a lesser extent the public, that high art was a key component in national development. For this group of patrons and producers, art was not only inherently uplifting but also a powerful cultural commodity. Thus the development of fine arts in Chile, and particularly the creation of Santiago's art museum, resulted from the work of elite art patrons and the artists themselves. This article discusses the development of fine arts in Chile, examining the Museo Nacional de Pintura and various public exhibitions as part of an elite project of nation-building, which sought to expand the audience for and interest in high art.

At the time of Independence, Chilean elites had little interest in fine arts and less experience of contemporary European high art. By the1840s, national art had gained a more prominent profile. Two methods were employed to foster domestic art: the painting academy and periodic exhibitions. The Academia de Pintura itself was founded in March 1849 and opened by President Manuel Bulnes. Modelled on Mexico's San Carlos Academy and the French Mission in Brazil, the new academy trained academic, neo-classical painters. The academy's students formed the first group of Chilean artists with European training and the works they produced helped to create a domestic art market. Exhibitions nevertheless were the principle vehicle for creating interest in and demand for fine arts while also cultivating artistic taste in the European mould. Occasional exhibitions in the 1840s had evolved (by 1850) into annual events used to demonstrate the fruits of Chile's progress and to stimulate workers to toil more through displaying the products of 'hard-working' artisans. (Rodríguez Villegas 1992: 287. Although out of fashion during the 1860s, large-scale expositions came into vogue again during the 1870s, mostly thanks to historian and mayor of Santiago Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna who masterminded the Esposición de Artes e Industrias in 1872, the Esposición de Coloniaje in 1873 and the 1875 International Exhibition. The 1872 Esposición de Artes e Industria was held to inaugurate the newly constructed iron and glass Mercado Central on the banks of the Mapocho River. Vicuña called the exhibition the 'triumph of art'. (El Mercurio 14 Sept. 1872: 2) As further evidence of Chilean progress, the new train in Santiago was inaugurated in the same ceremony. Part of the success of the exhibition was due to the widespread participation of both novice and established artists. Academy students, including Antonio Smith, Cosme San Martín, Onofre Jarpa and Manuel Antonio Caro, displayed their works. Notable among the works on display was the 'Zamacueca', Caro's costumbrista work of popular Chilean culture depicting a rural tavern dance. The sheer quantity amazed viewers, although most of the works on display were copies.

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'La Zamacueca'; Antonio Caro, Manuel

Eugenio M. Hostos, in his memoria of the exhibition, expressed concern about the dominance of landscape paintings. He attributed the popularity of landscapes to Chile's youth as a nation: he believed that all national art passed through a stage of landscape painting on its way to higher forms of expression. Augusto Orrego Luco took issue with Hostos, claiming he exaggerated the predominance of landscape paintings (46 landscapes compared to 39 of other genres) and commented that one should not confuse an exhibition with a nation (an unpopular sentiment at the time). He believed that the large number of landscape paintings represented a coincidence, rather than a trend. While counselling caution about taking the exhibition too seriously, Orrego Luco went on to find that paintings could represent society:

a painting reveals the thinking of the artist that produced it and the artist, by the manner in which he conceives and executes [it], reveals the intellectual development that the society in which he lives has achieved (Orrego Luco 1872-1873: 317-8)
. The exhibition prompted other polemics, about what was and was not appropriate for display. Although the controversy surrounding nudes in high art was the 'topic of the day', (El Mercurio 30 Sept. 1872: 3) the works themselves remained. At the closing ceremonies, the Mercurio's reporter noted that,
the point at which the addresses of Señores Estrada and Matte produced an interruption of applause and emotion, was when they spoke of the nude statues and paintings, as if [those present were] applauding the nerve that, in spite of the scrupulous people, art had in exhibiting nude beauty barely veiled by innocence (El Mercurio 7 oct. 1872: 2)
. The exhibition of nudes was a triumph of artistic values over misplaced concern for morals.

The 1875 International Exhibition, held three years later was also the brainchild of Vicuña Mackenna. The exhibition was held during spring and early summer on the grounds of the Quinta Normal and a new building had been built to house the fair .

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1875 National Exhibition, Santiago, 'La Exposicion en el Día de la Apertura de Setiembre de 1875'; unknown

The exhibition included a collection of paintings by Chilean artists, although it attracted 'attention more for its number [of works] than for its artistic merit'. (El Mercurio 21 Sept. 1875: 3) Participants included not just neighbours from Latin America, but also Italy, France, Germany and the United States, among others. Two paintings on historical themes displayed to national and international visitors were Manuel Antonio Caro's 'La Abdicación de O'Higgins'

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'La Abdicacion de O'Higgins'; Caro, Manuel Antonio

and Nicolás Guzmán's 'La Muerte de Pedro de Valdivia', both of which were awarded prizes. The historical paintings (the highest form of fine art) were given prominent positions, receiving praise in the press and visitors' rapt attention. This exhibition, however, was not as kind to landscape paintings, as one critic noted:
if our historical paintings are well place in the Exhibition and if they merit visitors' esteem, as the press has noted at various times and we will confirm later, the same does not occur with the landscapes, which lose a great deal since they are confused with so many other works of different genres that clash among themselves. This is an inconvenience associated with all large painting exhibitions. Nonetheless, landscapes suffer from this much more than portraits or paintings of battles, history, animals, interiors or type. Landscapes need the discrete light of our domestic living spaces... its enchantment is more serene and more intimate and does not show itself but in the half-light of the study or office, as it is the companion of retreat and the confidant of the solitary, tranquil meditation.
Although overshadowed by larger works in this crowded public display, the landscape paintings still deserved attention as they demonstrated Chile to Chileans. Depictions of light on the mountains or fecund fields represented 'our' Chile. (M.G., 'Los pintores chilenos', Correo de la Exposicion 1:4 [23 de Octubre de 1875], pp. 57-59)

Thus paintings, with historical or natural themes, represented Chile and offered evidence of national progress. Chile's artistic advancement marched alongside its industrial and commercial progress.

One of the things that most calls the attention of the national or foreign visitor to our Exhibition is the extraordinary and rapid progress that the fine arts in Chile have reached. It is enough for us to remember that in art as in industry, in literature as in science, in social life as in politics, today Chile is the reverse of all that it was twenty years ago. All our spheres of advancement march in parallel and it can be believed that the nineteenth-century will not conclude without the Chilean civilisation becoming celebrated and without our Santiago being called with justice "the Athens of America". (M.G., 'Los pintores chilenos', Correo de la Exposicion. 1:4 [23 de Octubre de 1875], pp. 57-59)

A Permanent Home

Through exhibitions and the work of art students an interest in paintings and an understand that art represented national progress had become more widespread among Chile's public. Certainly public figures and the press paid lip service to the importance of art. Always looking to Europe for inspiration, some art enthusiasts realized that a permanent exhibition space could glorify the nation each day, rather than only during the exhibition season. As the government showed no inclination towards creating a museum, instead private citizens organised and founded the fine arts museum. The plan for the museum came from José Miguel Blanco, a sculptor who had spent eight years studying in Europe on a government grant.

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José Miguel Blanco, Sketch of; unknown

His European stance returned him to Chile a positivist with great admiration for Europe's museums. Writing in the Revista Chilena, he proposed a way to begin a fine arts museum. Blanco wrote that hard-working Chileans, who were much more advanced than their neighbours, were already a nation of artists. A fine arts museum would inspire those who felt 'burn in his breast the noble desire to honor the fatherland'. (Blanco: 238) For any nation, Blanco wrote, a fine arts museum was a necessity, not a luxury. Creating a fine arts museum would be a gift to the nation and an act of patriotism.
The solemn inauguration of the Museum will occur on the day of the victorious army's entry into the capital, this [museum] would serve as a true triumphal arch inscribing on its facade two glorious dates condensed into only one: the triumph of our arms and the first temple consecrated to art in [the capital] that is called to be a focus of civilization of the new continent (Blanco: 242.)

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Coronel Marcos Maturana, Sketch of; unknown

General Marcos Maturana, an art collector, and Juan Mochi, then director of the Academia de Pintura accepted his call to make Santiago the continent's cultural capital. The commission worked over the winter, to put together the museum that would give a precise idea of 'the intellectual progress to which we have arrived. What will our implacable enemies, who treat us as savages and ignorant fools, say?' While Blanco offered up the museum as an arch of triumph to greet troops victorious against Peru, the press also depicted the founding of the museum as part of the war effort. El Mercurio reported that,
while the great dictator Piórola and his ministers occupy themselves in pronouncing decrees [including those which call for the destruction of cultural artifacts],Chile, this uncultured Chile, in the midst of making plans to go and plant the tricolour in the heart of cultured Lima, finds time to decree that the works of art that will serve as models for her sons, these poor rotos, be gathered religiously (El Mercurio 31 July 1880: 3) [emphasis in original].
(Rotos, literally broken ones, was the term used to refer to the peasantry who were leaving the rural estates that had employed their parents and grandparents. Many of these men became soldiers in the War of the Pacific 1879-1884.)

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Juan Mochi, Sketch of; unknown

Chileans could still remember that, whereas colonial Chile had been a territory to protect the riches of Peru from the 'wild' tribes to the south, colonial Peru itself had been the continent's culture leader. Chile's quick military victory against not only Bolivia but Peru in the War of the Pacific won the much-coveted mineral-rich Atacama Desert. Victory over Peru and Bolivia was viewed as confirmation of superiority over largely indigenous or mestizo neighbours, although even contemporary observers realized that the Chilean had won through having the least inept military. Recovering from their colonial inferiority complex, Chileans began to claim superiority based not just on military prowess, but on race. Chileans conceptualised themselves as 'white' while their neighbours were 'indians'.

The museum was never offered up as a triumphal arch, as it opened when the troops still occupied Lima. On 16 September 1880, a date no doubt chosen for its links to Chilean independence, Maturana wrote to Minister of Public Education Miguel Luis Amunátegui to inform him of the museum's existence, enclosing a copy of its catalogue. Maturana personally donated seven works to the new museum. Blanco's plan had called for donations to be publicly recognized with a plaque noting the donor and the date of the donation. Thus Maturana's gift was a very public act of philanthropy demonstrating his wealth. Among the works he specified were 'San Jerónimo' by Francisco Zurbarán, 'Tres evanjelistas' by Jakob Jordanes, 'Cristo llevando la Cruz' by Peter Paul Rubens and ' Juana la loca a los piés de Felipe el Hermoso' by Raymond Monvoisin. Paintings on Biblical and historical themes were extremely valuable contributions to the new museum. The Minister wrote back to Maturana that he was grateful for the active and 'patriotic' way in which the men had undertaken the museum's creation. (Anales de la Universidad Sept. 1880: 381-2) While Amunátegui did not mention it, he was probably grateful that their work had also been so inexpensive for the government: the museum was housed in the congressional building and the collection was mostly composed of art works the government already owned.

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_Exhibición Chilena en la Esposición Pan-Americana de Buffalo, E.U. 1901_; Laso J., J. Tadeo

From its foundation, then the museum represented an alliance between the elite and the government, with the elite offering both guidance and work, while the government responded with half-hearted support. The same pattern of elite initiative forcing government action continued for the rest of the century. This museum, pushed along by the elite, was also a work of patriotism, as recognized by Amunátegui. Its creators had sought to form a museum as a means to glorify the nation and to prove Chile's high cultural level to foreign visitors and critical neighbours and Chileans. Although when the museum was founded its works were supposed to serve as a model for the rotos returned from the war, once operating the museum placed little emphasis on accessibility to fine art or on moralizing through art. In fact, the museum was open to the public but a few hours a week each Sunday. Blanco's original plan had only called for the museum to be free on holidays while charging 20 centavos other opening days.

While Juan Mochi was named head of the new museum, the archival record includes no traces of him. Instead, day to day decision-making at the museum was taken by members of the Comisión de Bellas Artes, who were nominated by the government. These elite men, prominent in the art world, included Arturo Edwards (a collector), Marcos Maturana (also a collector), Pedro Lira (a painter) and Vicente Grez (a critic). The main concerns of the commission were the acquisition of new art works and the administration of various competitions. The public did not appear at all among the concerns of the Comisión de Bellas Artes - the collection existed for its own sake. The constraints of operating a museum in the congress' left-over space makes it easy to understand why initially little emphasis was placed on public display. Nonetheless, public display did not become a priority even when the museum was given its own home. The moralizing rhetoric disappeared with the initial enthusiasm over founding the museum.

In 1885, Pedro Lira founded the Sociedad Anónima Unión Artística, which included painters Ramón Subercaseaux, Alfredo Valenzuela Puelma, Onofre Jarpa and Rafael Correa as members. One of the group's goals was to find suitable space for the museum and its growing collection. After securing a site in the Quinta Normal de Agricultura, the Artistic Society used private funds (some Lira's own) and loans from the government to erect a permanent museum home. The new building was a small Greek-styled temple, with a classical columned exterior.

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'El partenon de la Quinta Normal'; unknown

For obvious reasons, it was soon nick-named the Parthenon. The architecture of the new home for the Museo de Pintura established Chile as a legitimate child of Western civilization, as much as any European nation. What the elite did not seem to realize was that their culture was such an exaggerated imitation of things European as to become a parody. In domestic architecture, styles imported from Europe - ranging from mock-Tudor to memories of Pompeii - replaced both Spanish colonial and neo-classical French. Theodore Child, an English visitor to Chile, described the houses in Santiago as enormous and over-decorated. He noted that Chileans took up good and bad taste with equal enthusiasm, and that in elite culture imitation substituted for inspiration. (Child quoted in Godoy Urzua 1982: 385) Arnold J. Bauer has theorised that, in a nation united by religion, language and ethnic ancestry, culture was the only tangible division between the elites and the rest of the population. Culture, manifest through clothing, housing, food or leisure-time activities, served to separate the elite from the masses. Thinking of culture as a means to differentiate classes also helps explain why the museum was not accessible to the general public. The elites were not yet concerned with working-class moralization, but rather with demonstrating their own superiority. During the 1880s, most of the Chilean elite were blind to the social question which had begun to fester around them and, as such, the benefits of pre-emptive disciplining of the working class through moralization had yet to be understood. The isolation of the elites who ran the new museum meant that the art museum remained an extension of elite culture and an expression of elite power.

The museum's collection grew quickly, to the delight of the commission, but eventually even the new building became too small.

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'Museo de Bellas Artes'; Lynch, Enrique

A variety of sources contributed to the ever-more crowded the collection. Both the Painting Academy's students - awarded grants to study in Europe - and its director were contractually required to submit examples of their work. These crated paintings needed a place to be displayed. In addition, wealthy individuals, like Maturana, donated works from their private collections. The government also purchased paintings on behalf of the museum, including Lira's 'La Muerte de Cristóbal Colon' and Valenzuela Puelma's 'La resurrección de la hija de Jairo'. Both of these works had already been honoured with gold medals at national exhibitions. Furthermore, the Comisión de Bellas Artes purchased materials for the museum, often those works which had been awarded first prize in Santiago's salons, mentioned below. As a result of these sources, the museum's collection exceeded the available space in the Parthenon. Members of the commission sought a new building to meet their extremely specific needs, but none was a perfect fit. They were not willing to settle on a building unless it was near both the University and the Instituto Nacional, preferably on the Alameda. The building's situation had to be prominent, to reflect the importance of the museum. (It must be noted that the Parthenon's location in the Quinta Normal was isolated from the city centre.) Eventually, the government commissioned plans for a new art museum to be located in the French-designed Parque Forestal.

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Museo de Bellas Artes, Santiago de Chile

With the collection growing and extra space diminishing, the commission sought to control the quality of the materials on display. High quality works were essential if the museum was to do Chile justice. On one occasion in 1887, they decided to sell paintings 'lacking artistic merit' and to use their earnings to purchase better quality ones. The works acquired, while no doubt meeting their high artistic standards, were a mixture of genres, ranging from historical themes to landscapes and sculpture. Several important historical works were acquired at this time. In 1888, the commission asked the government to purchase two paintings by Mosby 'because the glorious episodes of the last war are developed in them'. (Edwards, 1888) The same year Juan Mochi, a painter who also directed the Academia de Pintura, offered to the government two paintings,

that I painted expressly so that a memento remained on canvas of the glorious victories of Chile' in the War of the Pacific. The 7,000 pesos asking price was reasonable, according to Mochi, taking into consideration that 'in order to be more exact in the representation of the locations, I travelled to Peru and I neither economised on time nor on expenses so that my work would [represent] all that my strengths can reach.
Although he expressed reluctance to judge his own works, he did mention that they had been well-received in Florence and earned him the award of Member of the Academy of that city, as well as praise from critics and colleagues. (Mochi, 1888) The government eventually bought the paintings for the museum: 'Carga de los granaderos en la batalla de Chorrillos' and 'La primera division en la batalla de Chorrillos' both appeared on the museum's list of holdings in 1891. Not limited to paintings of war, the museum also acquired Luisa Lastarria's 'Naturaleza Muerta'

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'Naturaleza Muerta'; Lastarria, Luisa

(purchased for $100 in 1893) and Alphonse Louis Galbrund's 'Primavera' (depicting a well-coiffed nude woman cradling flowers, which was acquired in 1892) .

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'Primavera'; Louis Galbrund, Alphonse

Both of these works spring directly from a European artistic tradition, particularly the springtime nude, as representations of the four seasons often depicted spring as a nude maiden with flowers. From an 1890 list of recently acquired works, we see that works by Chilean artists (14) outnumbered foreign works (6). Paintings on themes specific to Chile included 'El puente de Cal y canto'

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'Antiguo Puente de Cal y Canto'; Subercaseaux Vicuña, Ramón

and 'Valparaíso', by Juan F. Gonzalez Escobar. 'Jugador de chueca', a sculpture by Nicanor Plaza, had been a popular work at both the 1872 and the 1875 exhibitions. The rest of the Chilean works were by native artists but did not represent an obviously national theme. This same catalogue gives a list of the already existing collection. Of these works, the majority treated religious themes. Of the 46 listed by title and author, 30 were on religious themes. Considering the hierarchy of artistic topics, which placed Biblical and historical themes at the top, the Chilean collection was very good.

While the museum collection favoured Biblical themes, Chilean painters of the 1870s and 1880s preferred to express themselves in landscape, a lower genre on the hierarchy of art. Landscape painters came under criticism for breaking with the classical training offered at the Academia de Pintura. The academy's training had tied students to rigid academic curriculum imported from the French Royal Academy. Chilean painters of this earlier generation dreamed of visiting museums in Europe, to spend long hours copying the old masters. The type of art promoted at the Academy and its imitation of European techniques and topics brought Chilean elite culture closer to the continent it admired, at the same time making art inaccessible to most Chileans who would not instantly recognize a nymph or a understand mythological reference. By the 1870s, the rigidity of academic training and its isolation from the daily experience of artists prompted some local painters to seek inspiration in Chile's landscapes. During the decade of the 1880s, painting diversified into two general currents. On one side were the academic painters including Cosme San Martín, Pascual Ortega, Magdalena Mira and Aurora Mira. Many of these artists were inspired to depict life in foreign countries, including foreign popular culture. On the other side were the painters who immersed themselves in the Chilean countryside for inspiration, having abandoned the Academy. Antonio Smith was an important mentor for these painters. He studied at the Academy for only three years and then went to Europe, where he was influenced by Romanticism. Upon returning to Chile, he set up his own studio where he worked with Pedro Lira, Alberto Orrego Luco, Alfredo Valenzuela Puelma and Onofre Jarpa.

Landscape artists were not without their critics, as already seen, but they also had their champions. One defender noted that ...

Bah! we have heard many times from the spectators at the Salon. These are painters who have not learned to draw a figure, and it is for this [reason] that they only paint deserts and birds, there is nothing easier than to stop doing what one does not know.
While the criticisms might be accurate,
What does it matter? One who examines a painting to know if it is good or bad, gentle or loud, likeable or detestable, is he obliged to state the grade of experience and the level of knowledge of each artist? Could one ask a battle of Jarpa or a landscape of Smith? They would not do it, as Corot, Daubigny, Tiratelli or any other celebrated French or Italian landscape artist would not... Why? For the very simple reason that each tree should produce its fruits and because what is important is that each [tree] has fruits of its [own] species... (M.G., 'Los pintores chilenos', Correo de la Exposicion 1:4 [3 de Octubre de 1875], pp. 57-9).

While the rebels painted the countryside and the academics produced neo-classical works, Chilean history was mostly forgotten. Why did the majority of Chilean artists ignore their own history and heroes as sources, when they were heirs to a distinguished tradition of historians? ( Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna and Diego Barros Arana were contemporaries.) In seeking to understand the lack of history paintings, we have to remember that history was sidelined in various other aspects of Chilean culture. Only one of the nineteenth-century exhibitions was devoted to history and Chile did not have a long-lived history museum until 1910. As much as Chile valued its historians, it did not value non-scholarly, non-written history. In nineteenth century Chile, history was left to the historians. For a discussion of public history in Chile, see 'Exhuming the Past with the Future in Mind'

The growing number of artists and increasing diversity of their work allowed for Pedro Lira, Ramón Subercaseaux and Marcos Maturana to create an exhibition of Chilean paintings, held in the Museo de Pintura in 1883. According to Vicuña Mackenna, the exhibition, with its 250 works, 'eclipsed' the artistic displays at earlier events. The sheer volume of works by Chileans supported the notion of a national school of art, although no uniform technique or genre that could rightly be labelled a school had emerged. The exhibition was a great popular success and the fact that the works included 23 women painters and 18 men painters caused a stir. From the 1870s onward, Chile had an important group of women painters, including Celia Castro and the Mira sisters, who were active participants in exhibitions and salons. Women had exhibited their works in the fine arts section of the 1875 International Exhibition (a first) and two of them were awarded prizes. By 1884 women were sufficiently common participants in art exhibitions for Vicente Grez to write that painting was a worthwhile and lucrative occupation. For poor women it paid better than sewing and for wealthy women it gave them an alternative to spending their time in idleness.

Chilean art historians consider the 1883 exhibition the first display of Chilean art and as the start of a 'Chilean school' of painting. While this may be an exaggeration, from 1883 onwards the venues for display and the number of artists and awards certainly increased. By 1884, El Mercurio was confident enough about Chilean art to refute all those who might doubt the quality or usefulness of Chilean art. Chile had at least thirty artists, almost all of whom had trained at home initially, who made a living wholly by painting. Moreover, Chile was the only nation in Latin America which had two of its artists win distinctions in Europe. At the national exhibition of the same year, the fine arts judges wrote in their report that

without allowing ourselves the satisfaction of having arrived at a sufficient state of progress to consider ourselves as an artistic nation, at the very least it is evident that we are approaching that result with rapid steps. (El Mercurio 21 Nov. 1884: 2)
Vicente Grez added his two cents worth, assuring those who thought art had little practical value that,
many times it is the books or works of art that open markets and create sympathy among peoples... Withdraw the literary and artistic exports of France, which create in the world the great prestige [for France's culture], and in little time you will see its commerce considerably reduced. The first manufacturers in France are, without a doubt, its great historians, its great romantics and its great artists. They, with their magnificent productions, extend throughout the world the sensibilities and the markets of the nation. (El Ferrocarril 19 Nov. 1884: 2)

At the same time, art collectors, tied into the oligarchy by birth or by marriage, became more active. Desire to purchase art perhaps reflects optimism regarding Chile's sure progress and bright future, as well as elite desires for high art as a tool of cultural distinction and form of conspicuous consumption. Among the important collectors were Maturana, Luis Cousiño (whose family had rich mining interests), Ramón Subercaseaux (not only a painter but a scion of Chilean aristocracy) and Arturo M. Edwards (who sponsored an award discussed below). Other evidence for the increasing profile of art were the new magazines addressing art and cultural concerns, La Revista Ilustrada, El Correo Literario, La Revista de Artes y Letras and Selecta, founded at this time. In this atmosphere, lively art criticism also began to flourish. Critics still voiced concern over the derivative nature of Chilean art and its unquestioning alliance with European culture. In 1878, Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna had attacked a painting exhibit as lacking any semblance of national character because the paintings were the works of 'timid novices'. Approximately ten years later, Pedro Balmaceda Toro echoed similar criticisms. (Vicuña Mackenna quoted in Godoy Urzua 1982: 409-10) While artistic production had expanded, Chilean art still exhibited a fundamental respect for European high artistic standards and models.

Contributing to the written reflections on art, in 1889, the museum began to publish its own journal entitled La Revista de Bellas Artes. The journal was initially funded with a 2,000 peso grant from the government. The directive committee depicted the creation of the journal as a natural step because

given the progress that fine arts have made among us and the liking for them that is being developed in society, the publication of a periodical imposes itself as a necessity so that this important branch of knowledge has a centre... of diffusion. (Comisión de Bellas Artes: 1889)
The journal was to appear on a monthly basis, under a director appointed by the Comisión de Bellas Artes. Each volume, at least 64 pages in length, would consist of the following sections: Lectura General, Crónica Estranjera, Crónica Interior, Miscelania. The first section was for original articles and criticisms about fine arts generally. The second section was to include translations of articles written on European artistic exhibitions. The third section would deal with local expositions or anything else that 'directly' addressed the question of art in Chile, while the fourth and final section reproduced laws pertaining to fine arts, either in Chile or abroad. The journal's contents suggests that it was to promote Chilean art, through a European cultural view finder. The periodical was to be published with government funding, and distributed free to the director of the Comisión de Bellas Artes, to the members of the Consejo de Instrucción Pública, to the faculties of Humanities and Fine Arts at the University and to all public libraries. Only this last provision suggests that the journal could have been used to disseminate knowledge of fine arts more widely.

The Salons

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Photograph of catalogues from the Santiago Salons; unknown

From 1885, the Museo Nacional de Pintura and the Sociedad Anónima Unión Artística sponsored annual exhibitions of Chilean art, known as salons, after the French institution. The salons charged an entrance fee and profits went towards the construction of the Parthenon (including paying back the government loan) while also allowing the society to purchase art for the museum. The regulations of the salon stipulated that once a week, at the discretion of the Directive Committee, the exhibition had to be free to everyone. The Directive Committee also had the authority to set the hours and the fee for the event. (The artists themselves were always to have free entry). The regulations stipulated that all original art executed in Chile and all works by Chilean artists resident abroad were eligible for the salons. The awards jury was to be named by the museum's Comisión de Bellas Artes and comprised of three from among their own members and four chosen from suggestions of the displaying artists. Art exhibited could win awards in either the salons or the General Marcos Maturana Contest, running simultaneously. Overall, there was to be a
a grand prize of honour, that can be awarded to the most outstanding and most important work, either in the category of painting or sculpture, only requiring that it has been executed in Chile and by a Chilean artist. (Reglamento para la Esposición Nacional 1887: 5)
This award winning work could be from any genre; no art or genre of painting was privileged over another.

When the salons were opened, only 'fine arts' were eligible for display. In 1887, the salon, open to the public each afternoon, displayed 92 paintings, 14 drawings and 10 sculptures. Over the years, watercolours, architecture and engravings were added as eligible categories. In 1906 the categories of wood engraving and carving were also included for display. By 1907, the exhibition included 'works of painting, drawing, sculpture, architecture and arts applied to industry'. (1907 Salon Catalogue) Entries under the category of applied art included a table, a crucifix, a display cabinet showing Chilean porcelain, a Spanish crest, a vase and a frame. The gradual expansion of materials eligible for display suggests that the strict division between applied and 'fine' arts, part of the doctrine taught at the Painting Academy, was either loosening or had never really taken hold at all. Fine and applied arts appear to have been converging through their joint display at the salons.

Nonetheless, the important awards, like the Maturana and Edwards awards, were only offered to fine arts. The Edwards Award, created in 1888, provides further evidence that there was concern with the overall development of Chilean art. Only Chileans resident in Chile were eligible to compete for the Edwards Award, creating an exclusive vision of 'Chilean' art which Edwards shared with Maturana. Chileans wandering in self-imposed exile could no longer gain glory at home. The best landscape or still life would be awarded $300, while portraits, animals or busts would win $400. Eight hundred pesos was to be awarded to a 'historical national painting or a statue or sculptural composition in high or low relief about a national theme'. The best overall work, regardless of its genre, was given a prize of $1,000. If two works were equally deserving of the grand prize, then the recompense could be divided. (1894 Salon Catalogue: 38-9) The division of prize money suggests that Edwards imposed a hierarchy of art, topped with art to glorify the nation at the pinnacle. The $800 award is the first evidence I have found of a strong incentive for artists to paint national or historic themes.


The project of creating artistic taste and spaces for artistic exhibition was one principally undertaken by those involved in the art world and sympathetic elites. The Museo Nacional de Pintura resulted from the initiative of private citizens, artists and art aficionados, who viewed fine arts as a means to rank Chile among the first nations of the world. While the government cooperated with this enterprise, it did not foster its own initiatives. Inside the museum, the collection of art represented an eclectic mixture of Chilean originals, copies of old masters and more recent purchases made in Europe and at home. Philanthropists donated paintings to the museum and the Academia de Pintura produced more works for the museum's collection. No where in the project of developing Chile's artistic tradition was there a mandate for art or attempt to create one. Only in the salons do we find interest expressed in making the display available to the poor and only here is fine art mixed with applied arts. The elite believed Chilean fine arts represented and were integral to national progress, yet the arts also served to distinguish the elite from the masses and further strengthen class and social divisions. Art served to cement national fault lines, rather than unite Chileans in the pursuit of beauty.

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    Archival Material Cited:

  • Archivo Nacional, Santiago. Fondo Ministerio de Instrucción Pública volume 685, no number. Letter from Comisión de Bellas Artes, regarding founding of journal, 29 April 1889.
  • Published Primary Sources:

  • Anales de la Universidad. Sept. 1880. "Museo Nacional de Pinturas - Documentos relativos a su instalacion i composicion por ahora", (LVIII): 381-2.
  • Anales de la Universidad. July 1885. "Edificio para esposiciones periódicas de Bellas Artes", (LXVIII): 449-50
  • Boletín de Instrucción PC:blica. Jan. and Feb. 1885. 'El peso de la tierra', (LVXIII): 53
  • Boletín de Instrucción PC:blica. March 1885. "Adquisición del cuadro 'La muerte de Colón'", (LXVIII): 127-8.
  • Esposición Nacional Artística Salon de 1893 Catálogo de las obras de pintura, escultura, acuarela, dibujo i arquitectura. 1893. Santiago de Chile: Imprenta i Libreria 'Ercilla'.
  • Esposición Nacional Artística Salon de 1894 Catálogo de las obras de pintura, escultura, acuarela, dibujo i arquitectura. 1894. Santiago de Chile: Imprenta y Libreria 'Ercilla'.
  • Exposición Artística Nacional Salán de 1889 Catálogo de las Obras de Pintura, Escultura, Acuarelas, Dibujos y Grabados. 1890. Santiago de Chile: Imprenta de los Debates.
  • El Ferrocarril. 19 Nov. 1884. "Las Bellas Artes en la Esposicion: Consideraciones Generales": 1.
  • El Mercurio. 14 Sept. 1872. "La Esposicion": 2.
  • El Mercurio. 16 Sept. 1872. "Primera fiesta del aniversario de la patria": 2.
  • El Mercurio. 30 Sept. 1872. "La Esposicion": 3.
  • El Mercurio. 7 Oct. 1872. "Reparticion de premios": 2.
  • El Mercurio. 21 Sept. 1875. "La esposicion internacional": 3.
  • El Mercurio. 31 July 1880. "Museo de bellas artes": 3.
  • El Mercurio. 12 Sept. 1884. "El fomento del arte nacional": 2.
  • El Mercurio. 21 Nov. 1884. "Esposicion": 2.
  • Orrego Luco, Augusto. 1872-1873. 'Chile en su Esposicion de Setiembre', Revista de Santiago (III): 317-8
  • Reglamento para la Esposición Nacional de Bellas Artes. 1887. Santiago de Chile: Imprenta Nacional.
  • SalC3n de 1907 Católogo de las Obras de Pinturas, Dibujo, Escultura, Arquitectura i Arte aplicada a la Industria. 1907. Santiago de Chile: J.E. Astaburuaga.
  • Published Secondary Sources:

  • Ades, Dawn with contributions by Guy Brett, Stanton Loomis Catlin and Rosemary O'Neill. 1989. Art in Latin America: the Modern Era, 1820-1980. New Haven and London: Yale University Press for the South Bank Centre.
  • Bauer, Arnold J. 1990. "Industry and the Missing Bourgeoisie: Consumption and Development in Chile, 1850-1950", Hispanic American Historical Review (70, 2): 240
  • Blakemore, Harold. 1986. "Chile from the War of the Pacific to the World Depression, 1880-1930", in Leslie Bethell (ed.), Cambridge History of Latin American vol. V, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: 499-551.
  • Dirección de Bibliotecas, Archivos y Museos. 1982. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. Chile: Ministerio de EducaciC3n PC:blica.
  • Galaz, Gaspar and Milan Ivelic. 1981. La Pintura en Chile desde la Colonia hasta 1981. Valparaíso: Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Ediciones Universitarias.
  • Godoy Urzua, Hernán. 1982. La Cultura Chilena Ensayo de Sintesis y de interpretación sociología. Santiago: Editorial Universitaria.
  • Hall, James. 1996. Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art. John Murray: London.
  • Labarca H., Amanda. 1939. Historia de la Enseñanza en Chile. Santiago de Chile: Imprenta Universitaria.
  • Memoria del Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes Calendario Colección Philips. 1998. Santiago: Philips.
  • Pike, Frederick B. 1963. Chile and the United States, 1880-1962: The Emergence of Chile's Social Crisis and the Challenge to United States Diplomacy. Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press.
  • Rodríguez Villegas, Hernán. 1992. "Exposiciones de Arte en Santiago 1843-1887", in Fundación Mario Góngora, Formas de Sociabilidad en Chile, 1840-1940. Santiago, Editorial Vivaria: 279-314.
  • Subercaseaux, Bernardo . 1981. Cultura y Sociedad Liberal en el Siglo XIX (Lastarria, ideologia y literatura). Santiago: Editorial Aconcagua Colección Bello.
  • Vidor, Pablo. n.d. El Museo de Bellas Artes. n.p.: n.p.

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