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The 19th century paintings
El Místico del Angel, by Víctor Patricio Landaluze in 1888
Cuba 1800
This century is represented by the expansion of the economy for sugar and by an increase in the African slave-trade. It was a splendorous age for the domestic bourgeoisie; hence their search for representation. An increased number of portrait orders takes the place of the former aristocratic paintings.
Around 1805 bishop Juan Jose Diaz de Espada y Landa, a protector of science and arts, assigns the Italian painter Jose Perovani the execution of the frescos of La Catedral de La Habana; he is one of the foreign artists exerting an influence on Cuban pictorial activity. This bishop and the intendant Alejandro Ramirez are the main characters of the biggest cultural event of the time: the creation of the fine Arts National Academy in 1818. This second American academy, after San Carlos de Mexico , had the French Juan Bautista Vermay as its first president, a pupil of Maestro David. Vermay came to continue Perovani´s works, his masterpiece is the murals of Templete that represent the first mass ever said in such a place, the first cabildo and the inauguration of this little temple.

It is the European pictorial trends that are shown in our island with a delay of decades. The academy proposes a methodology for representing, a resolute ideal of beauty, a variety of topics; it advocates for an hedonist sense of art, mimetism, timelessness and responds to the official culture, the state culture and that of social projections.
Their realizations are quite far from the contingencies of the epoch, and can only express themselves through non-dominant speeches such as caricature and llustrations. Neoclassicism , the first language ever incorporated, adds pictures of historical mythological and allegorical concern. Oil, the most traditional of all techniques, is definitly the one cultivated.

In the middle of the XIX century begins the process of formation of the national painting. Taste and estimation begin to develop in Cuban painting once the environment is filled with new spiritual aspirations. In the political field, premonitions of liberty are heard from father Varela, Tomás Gener, José Antonio Saco, Betancourt Cisneros and others, at the same time that the intellectual class spreads the seeds of an autochthonous culture: Don José de la Luz y Caballero , Domingo del Monte and José María Heredia.
It is the time when landscape painters incorporate romanticism under the influences of the French schools Barbizon and Fontainebleu or the North American school Hudson River.

Esteban Chartrand and Valentin Sanz Carta are examples of two opposite versions; the first, a Cuban artist of French origin, paints landscapes with a nostalgic idealized twilight where Cuban elements can be seen, such as: bohios, sugar mill engines and palm trees; the other, a Cuban-naturalized native from the Canary islands, gives us a straighter, realistic landscape, invaded by tropical lights.
Belgian Henry Clennewerk and Cuban Federico Fernandez Cavada are also among landscapers. It is in those days that genre appears. Juana Borrero, Jose Joaquin Tejada and Victor Patricio Landaluze; this last being the most mentioned for the great documentary and artistic values of his works. He worked with water and oil colors, thus transferring the transparency and luminosity of painting to water. On political caricatures, he presents, like nobody else, our domestic elements with a certain sense of observation, of quality, and a fine humor genre.

Within the official academicism, that lasts for the first two lustrums of the XX c., stand Juan Jorge Peoli , Jose Arburo y Moiell, Miguel Angel Melero, as well as Guillermo Collazo Tejeda, a contradictory figure for having secessionist ideas in politics while artistically tributing to French Conservative paintings.
We must not forget the unbeliabable portrait painter Federico Martínez Matos, from Santiago de Cuba, whose admission to the academy is doubted upon but still develops a work that owes its singularity to a mixture of the Spanish realism and the Italian idealism. On returning from Europe, Armando Garcia Menocal and Leopoldo Romañach Gillen participate in the cultural renewal that new times and new governors propiciate (which positive side strides on the pedagogical reorganization started with the North American occupation) when they`re called to hold chairs at the academy where they form generations of Cuban painters.

Menocal, who participated in the independence war and took notes for an epical Cuban painting, exertes an influence on the first new artists of the Republic: Manuel Vega, Esteban Valderrama y de la Peña, Pastor Arguday, etc. On the other hand, Romañach, after Juan Bautista Vermay and Miguel Melero, has been considered the most efficacious teacher in our artistic evolution, a vanguard teacher who replaces a decadent romanticism for naturalism, works with a living model and assumes portraits as an excuse where psychological representations of models don`t matter. They`re both considered to finish the XIX c. and start the XX with more relief than any other and to be the transition giving way to modern Cuban painting.
Persisting on academicism, Valderrama Domingo Ramos and Romañach paint the murals in the Aula Magna and the Presidential Palace as modernists take their first steps.
by Cuban Fine Art Website
Article ID 192
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