Andrés de Santamaría: A misunderstood leader.


Although born in Bogotá, Colombia in 1860, this plastic artist received his whole education in Europe: he first lived in England before his father was appointed as a diplomat in France, then he lived itinerantly in Belgium and France, where he studied in the Académie Des Beaux Arts de Paris working along in the ateliers of Gervex and Ferdinand Humbert.

Andrés de Santa María, Self portrait, 1942, oil on canvas, Bogotá, Miguel Urrutia Museum of Art (MAMU), Permanent exposition of the collection of art.

While in Paris, he met Manet, Gaugin, Monet, Denis and some more modern artists, who obviously, influenced his artwork and technique: rapid brush strokes and mildly separated colors based on a high value of light and its effects on colors, big oil stains that gave lots of textures to his paintings; outdoor painting in opposition to classic themes , to name some, set clear differences between him and the classic Colombian Academy, so when he arrived back to Colombia, in 1893 (poetically at 33 years old) and faced the highly conservative art world of the epoque, led by Epifanio Garay (Headmaster of the Academia de Bellas Artes) and Ricardo Acebedo Bernal, his artwork shocked both critics and artists: Similar to the reaction to impressionism in France, he and his artwork received negative criticism regarding mainly  the choosing of themes, the color technique and his lack of patriotism (war chiefs paintings are not really abundant in his work).

Andrés de Santamaría, landscape, 1906, oil on cardboard, Bogotá, Miguel Urrutia Museum of Art (MAMU), Permanent exposition of the collection of art, Ruptures and continuities.

Santamaría’s shock divided the two main critics of Colombia then: Baldomero Sanín Cano, a liberal and self-proclaimed modern critic, who supported his oeuvre and commented positively some of his paintings, calling him “A revolutionary” while praising his new ways of using colors (specially purple) “With his help, the rainbow has brought us his secrets lovingly”, I highly recommend his texts “Impresionismo en Bogotá”; On the other hand,  Maximiliano Grillo, a conservative, after a long term of silence about Santamaría, wrote an essay called “The psychology of impressionism” as a response to Sanín’s Impressionism in Bogotá, where he started by saying  “What’s merely verbal on poetry and what only retains the momentary impression of light in paintings, don´t seem to be destined to a long life”, he also wrote about Santamaría when he presented Le Salon de Paris of 1927, in which, the artist had exposed two paintings; Grillo, finally giving a little credit to them, spoke about their “Sincerity and boldness despite what he thinks about the technique”.

Andrés de Santamaría, The washers of the Senna, 1887, oil on canvas, Bogotá, National Museum of Colombia, permanent exposition.

Despite the negative critics (and maybe thanks to his family’s political connections), Santamaría was apppointed in 1904 as the Headmaster of the Academia de Bellas Artes de Colombia, where he founded an annex academy for  Professional Industrial and Decorative arts, where they taught mechanics, wood and rock sculpture, ceramics, foundry and silver jewelry; he also started nude modeling class workshops.

Andrés de Santamaría, Desdémona, 1936, oil on canvas, Bogotá, Miguel Urrutia Museum of Art (MAMU), Permanent exposition of the collection of art, The avant-garde renovation.

Santamaría moved back to Europe in 1911, where he died in 1945. His oeuvre has been exposed, amongst other places, in Belgium, Paris, London, and several times in Colombia, he is considered by some critics and art philosophers as a post-impressionist or as a “Sui-generis expressionist”, (QUINCHE, Víctor Alberto. 2014)  beyond those comments, he was the leader of Colombian Impressionism and overall Colombian Modern Art.

Andrés de Santamaría, Prussian soldier, unknown, oil on canvas, Bogotá, private collection.

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Andrés de Santamaría: A misunderstood leader. was first posted on March 17, 2020 at 10:20 pm.
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