Alfredo Guttero (Argentinian 1882-1932)

Figura de mujer

Alfredo Guttero (Argentinian 1882-1932)
Figura de mujer
signed and dated 'Guttero, 1924' (lower right)
oil on canvas
22 x 18 in. (56 x 46 cm.)
Painted in 1924.
Acquired from the artist.
Andrés Garmendia collection, Buenos Aires.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.

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Jessica Katz
Jessica Katz

Lot Essay

This work is sold with a certificate of authenticity signed by Dora Guttero.

"I am surprised and have yet to find my way in Buenos Aires," Alfredo Guttero wrote to his friend, the Argentine sculptor Luis Falcini, in October 1927. "I cannot find anything familiar here, and this means that I am in a state of perpetual surprise and confusion, but this I can tell you: I am filled with awe at the incredible progress and my expectations are high."(1) Guttero had traveled to Argentina just weeks earlier for the occasion of his first solo exhibition in Latin America, returning to the land of his birth after twenty-three years spent abroad in France and in Italy. He had intended to return to his studio in Genoa, but the warmth of his reception by the emergent Argentine avant-garde--among them Raquel Forner, Emilio Pettoruti, and Xul Solar --and the appeal of their modernizing, progressive vision for the national culture persuaded him to settle in Buenos Aires and join their cause.

The son of Italian immigrants, Guttero followed the artistic path taken by many other Latin American artists in the first half of the twentieth century, traveling to Europe at a young age, immersing himself in the cultural avant-garde and then returning to Argentina as an influential promoter of modern art. His transatlantic experience was marked by continuous contact with the Río de la Plata, however, and his contributions to the official salons during his years abroad kept his work and its modern, social values current in Argentina throughout the years of his absence. As Marcelo E. Pacheco has remarked, Guttero's virtual "duplication"--"acting in two separate spheres at the same time, working in his European place of residence while making long-distance contributions to his native country"--and his synthetic "blend of styles, themes, techniques, meanings and references, processing traditions and new trends here and there" made him a natural leader and organizer of Argentine modernism upon his return.(2) Between 1927 and his death in 1932, Guttero was a leading figure on Argentina's cultural scene, pioneering traveling exhibitions of "barracas desmontables" ("portable booths") that brought art to local neighborhoods, collaborating with the avant-garde Camuatí group and its magazine, and even taking on his own students in the "Cursos Libres de Arte Plástico," inaugurated in 1932.

Guttero's tireless efforts as an advocate for forward-looking art have in some ways overshadowed his own work, but the stylized elegance of his painting is certainly emblematic of the modern vision that he held for his country. "Exquisite in color and admirable in the composition of his pictures, he could mingle Spanish and French atmosphere and combine the emphatic art of Michelangelo, the smooth surfaces of Donatello and the thinner ecstasies of El Greco," Aubrey F. G. Bell has written. "The influence of Cézanne, Ingres, the Cubist school and perhaps of Rossetti may also be traced in the strangely attractive and, we must insist, very original work" of Guttero and the Argentine school.(3) The present Figura de mujer is one of many women that the artist painted over the course of his career, in images that range from intimate scenes at the toilette to social depictions of the urban landscape and, particularly in his final years, to devotional paintings of the Madonna. With her hand across her heart and her eyes solemnly downcast, this Figura de mujer projects a genteel demeanor and a serenely contemplative gaze. The wavy highlights of her dark blonde hair and her gently pursed lips are echoed in the warm color harmonies of the abstracted background, whose flattened space harmoniously frames her portrait. A timeless image of a woman in silent meditation, Figura de mujer is a refined example of Guttero's mature painting and a testament not only to his mastery of richly consonant color, but to the touching humanity of his subjects as well.

1) A. Guttero, quoted in M. T. Constantin, "Alfredo Guttero and the Industrial Landscape," in Alfredo Guttero: un artista moderno en acción, Buenos Aires: Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires and Fundación Eduardo F. Costantini, 2006, 200.
2) M. E. Pacheco, "Curatorial Practice and Fields of Writing: The Case of Alfredo Guttero," in Alfredo Guttero: un artista moderno en acción, 174.
3) A. F. G. Bell, review of Alfredo Guttero, by J. E. Payró, Books Abroad 21, no. 1 (Winter 1947), 43.

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