Eugenio Landesio (1810-1879)
Eugenio Landesio (1810-1879)
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Paesaggio con Corzo d’Acqua (La Garita de la Viga)

Paesaggio con Corzo d’Acqua (La Garita de la Viga)
signed ‘E. Landesio’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
28 1⁄4 x 36 1⁄2 in. (72 x 93 cm.)
Painted circa 1860.
Private collection, Rome
Anon. sale, L’Antonina, S.R.L., Galleria d’Arte, All’Asta, Rome, December 14, 1985.
Private collection, Texas.
Further details
1 Eugenio Landesio, La pintura general o de paisaje y la perspectiva en la Academia Nacional de San Carlos (Mexico City: Imprenta de Lara, 1867). He also authored Cimientos del artista dibujante y pintor: Compendio de perspectivas lineal y aérea, sombras, espejo y refracción con las nociones necesarias de geometría (1866).
2 Alberto Nulman Magidin, “Eugenio Landesio and José María Velasco, Hacienda de Monte Blanco,” Picturing the Americas. Landscape Painting from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic, edited by Valéria Piccoli, Peter John Brownlee and Georgiana Uhlyarik (Yale University Press for Art Gallery of Ontario and Terra Foundation for American Art, 2015): 162-164; and his “Eugenio Landesio y la Historia Natural,” M.A. Thesis, UNAM, 2009.
3 Fausto Ramirez, “Metodo de Landesio,” in Homenaje Nacional: José María Velasco 1840-1912 (Mseo Nacional de Arte), 2:65-100, for Landesio’s influence on Velasco.

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Lot Essay

When Eugenio Landesio departed his native Italy in 1855 to take up a professorship at Mexico’s Academia de Bellas Artes de San Carlos (Fine Arts Academy of San Carlos), few could have predicted the major impact he would have on the course of Mexican art. In Rome he had met the Spanish (Catalan) painter Pelegrín Clavé, who proposed to the governing board of the Academy that Landesio be engaged as a professor for the Perspective and Landscape class. It was a bold plan. In the hallowed hierarchy of fine art, religious and historical paintings were the most highly regarded, with landscape relegated to an inferior position. Academic training therefore focused on drawing and painting the human figure, first from sculpture casts and eventually from life. Since instruction in the empirical study of nature and sketching in the open air was uncommon for established institutions anywhere in the western world, its insertion into the curriculum at this, the oldest academy in the Americas, was revolutionary. This painting of La Garita de la Viga played a key role in these developments.
Trained at the Accademia Nazionale di San Luca in Rome, Landesio was a skilled painter, printmaker, writer and teacher. Active in Mexico from 1855 to 1877, he determined to tutor his students to sketch outdoors to capture the realities of nature directly. He came to realize, however, that the newly-independent Mexico had inherited the Spanish Colonial artistic traditions focusing on pictures of the Virgian and Child, the Saints, and scenes from the Old and New Testament. Secular subjects included mainly portraits with little demand for pictures of pristine, uninhabited scenes of mountains or rivers. To make landscape art appealing to his new audience, he combined the depiction of churches, haciendas and civic monuments familiar from colonial art with the nineteenth century impulse for picturing open spaces and geological landmarks like the volcanoes encircling the Valley of Mexico. He named this hybrid form pittura general (general painting) and explained it in a brief treatise published in 1867.[1] The present work is a demonstration piece for his approach featuring the stone bridge leading up to the Garita de la Viga, a customs house built on one of the water channels that were used to convey goods into Mexico City in the nineteenth century. Its neoclassical form dominates the scene, with its impressive arch surmounted by a coat of arms. True to his theory, Landesio blends the manmade elements with nature: at right a tall tree towers over the architecture and through the opening at left appear the unmistakable forms of the volcanoes Iztaccihuatl and Popocatépetl that the artist had studied closely on an excursion he described and illustrated in his Escursion a la Caverna de Cacahuamilpa y ascension al Crater del Popocatepetl. Staffage, or human and animal figures, were traditionally inserted into scenic pictures, but they were small in scale and subordinate to the surrounding landscape. Landesio by contrast paints them large and assigns them an important role.[2]
The architecture, canal and mountains establish the locality, but also significant in the theory of general painting is what the artist called the episode: the holiday excursion of the pleasure seekers in the foreground, riding in the canal boat, conversing with another and enjoying the day. The artist took particular care with their clothing, rendering the men with distinctive hats and the women with brightly colored skirts and rebozo. This attention to detail is applied equally to the plants and trees that he observed on the spot to convey their vitality and specificity, from the lily pads floating on the water to the distinctively-shaped, glossy leaves on the trees. Landesio trained his pupils in this composite genre he applied in La Garita de la Viga that helped fostered a taste for landscape among local patrons. Students at the academy made copies after this important picture, the location of which was little known to scholars of Mexican art until now. His close pupils Luis Coto, José Jiménez Aranda and especially José María Velasco went on to establish a national landscape school, inspired by Landesio’s insatiable fascination with nature and deep commitment to landscape art conveyed in his writing, pedagogy and artworks.[3]
Katherine E. Manthorne, Professor of Art History, Graduate Center, City University of New York

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