Monday, May 17, 2010

(Social) Realism: Uruguay

Juan Manuel Blanes (1830 – 1901)

Juan Manuel Blanes (June 8, 1830 – April 15, 1901) was a noted Uruguayan painter of the Realist school. Blanes was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1830. The 1871 outbreak of a yellow fever epidemic in Buenos Aires inspired his first renowned work, which he exhibited to acclaim in the recovering city. His 1872 portrait of the Argentine War of Independence hero, General José de San Martín (The Review in Rancagua), was also a success in Buenos Aires, and Blanes was invited to Chile to display the historic depiction. Returning to Uruguay, Blanes undertook a portrait of the "Thirty-three Easterners," members of a revolutionary vanguard whose insurrection against Brazilian authorities resulted in Uruguayan Independence, in 1828. The portrait's 1877 display was followed by Blanes' second stay in Florence, where he completed The Battle of Sarandí, a depiction of another milestone in Uruguay's nationhood.

Carlos Maria Herrera (1875–1914)
Carlos María Herrera (December 18, 1875–1914) was a Uruguayan painter. Born in Montevideo, Herrera began his studies there under the instruction of Pedro Queirolo, later relocating to Buenos Aires for two years at the Círculo Estímulo de Bellas Artes. In 1897 he traveled for the first time to Europe, studying in Rome with the Spaniards Salvador Sánchez Barbudo and Mariano Barbasán Lagueruela. He continued his studies in Spain with Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida. In 1902 he took his second and final trip to Europe. As a specialist in portraits, Herrera was popular among the high society of Montevideo. His portraits of women and children display his mastery of pastel, his favored medium. He also delved, like many of his contemporaries, into the genre of nativismo, painting scenes of gauchos and criollos.

Felipe Seade (1912 – 1969)
Felipe Seade (1912 – 18 January 1969) was a Lebanese painter and teacher who spent most of his life in Uruguay. Seade was born in Santiago de Chile, the elder son of a Lebanese immigrant family. Eleven years later his whole family moved to Montevideo, Uruguay. At the age of 12 Seade began working as an assistant to the Muralist Enrique Albertazzi and the painter Guillermo Rodríguez. Under Rodríguez' influence Seade took some painting courses at the Fine Arts Circle school. He had his first show in 1925. From 1931 well into the 1950s Seade presented work in many national and city halls. In 1944, Seade began his parallel career as a teacher. He first work as teacher of drawing at the Liceo de Colonia, where he managed to paint the large mural, Alegoría al Trabajo (1936), and later as a professor of the Montevideo Fine Arts School, where he taught for 25 years.

It is impossible to understand Seade's artistic life without a reference to his political life. He wanted to paint for "the people, not for the walls of the bourgeoisie". He aspired to paint murals, the preferred way for his generation to reach the masses, but the only murals he managed to finish were the one in Colonia and the La marcha del Pueblo à la Piedra Alta (1939) at the Conference Hall of the Liceo de Florida. However, a significant part or Seade's work is formed by his sketches of murals and preparity sketches for murals. Thematically, Seade mostly sought to represent the characters of Uruguayan life — washing women, Gauchos, soccer fans, kids and women. Not from a tourist perspective, which he despised, but with the passion of a convinced social realist.

World (Social) Realist Art (Index of Countries)
This blog page is part of an ongoing project by artist and part-time lecturer Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin ( to explore Realist / Social Realist art from around the world. The term Realism is used in its broadest sense to include 19th century Realism and Naturalism as well as 20th century Impressionism (which after all was following in the path of Courbet and Millet). Social Realism covers art that seeks to examine the living and working conditions of ordinary people (examples include German Expressionism, American Ashcan School and the Mexican Muralists).

Click here for (Social) Realist Art Definitions, World (Social) Realism and Global Solidarity, Art and Politics, Social Realism in history and Country Index.

Suggestions for appropriate artists from around the world welcome to

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