Pedro Figari (Uruguayan 1861-1938)
Pedro Figari (Uruguayan 1861-1938)

Preparando el candombe (Decoración)

Pedro Figari (Uruguayan 1861-1938)
Preparando el candombe (Decoración)
signed 'P. Figari' (lower left) and inscribed 'No. 947, PREPARANDO EL CANDOMBE' (on the reverse)
oil on board
23 3/8 x 31 1/8 in. (59.4 x 79 cm.)
Painted circa 1935.
Pedro Figari, Jr., Montevideo.
Anon. sale, Christie's, South Kensington, 7 December 1998, lot 123 (illustrated).
Property from a Private Collector, Europe, Sotheby's, New York, 3 June 1999, lot 7 (illustrated in color).
Acquired from the above.

Brought to you by

Virgilio Garza
Virgilio Garza

Lot Essay

We are grateful to Mr. Fernando Saavedra Faget for his assistance in confirming the authenticity of this work.

In 1912, the Uruguayan artist Pedro Figari published his three volume treatise Arte, Estética, Ideal. In this text, the painter, lawyer, judge, philosopher and educator laid out his philosophical beliefs on the importance of man's relationship to nature and his views on pedagogy in Uruguay. Figari's works belie his commitment to reflecting regional culture, featuring mostly historical scenes from the colonial period or the period of early independence in Uruguay.

Having made some trips to France, including one in 1913 and another in 1923, Figari was deeply influenced by the work of the Post-Impressionists and the Fauves. The significance that the Fauvists placed on the representation of national culture in both landscape and interior scenes is mirrored in Figari's own work. While his style is steeped in the European tradition, however, the content of the work reflects what he and others described as an American perspective. The artist's interest in cultivating a national art led him to emphasize very specifically Uruguayan, and for him "American," subject matter. His representations of Afro-Uruguayans, creole/criollo figures and landscapes are his interpretation of emblematic Uruguayan national culture. His depictions of what he called "lo nativo americano" feature broad landscapes--pampas--or colonial style homes with clearly African figures.

Figari's paintings most often feature Afro-Uruguayans and illustrate various aspects of life among the black slaves who fled to Uruguay from Brazil. The most well-known of these images feature black figures participating in Candombe dances which were performed to celebrate major religious holidays.[1] Figari's paintings also show Afro-Uruguayans in various daily activities, illustrating aspects of black life as emblematic of one lived in tandem with nature. In this painting, a group of women dressed in lively colors gather in front of a home. The trailing vines of a grape plant are visible as it climbs between two houses. In front of them, a young man sits on a stool. Cats and dogs frisk happily about as the women make the preparations for the Candombe, as the title suggests. The excitement and the imminent sounds, gestures, poses and movements are palpable in the scene.

Throughout his body of work, Figari remains interested in the interpretation of black life, particularly as an example of one centered on a group identity. Everyday scenes such as this one become analogous with the spectator's own experiences and refer, in turn, to the growth and development of a national culture. Parallel to this conception of cultural nationalism is the kind of historicizing primitivism in which Figari engages to underline his ideas about an authentic representation of Uruguay. The candombe, criollo and gaucho dances and similar genre scenes he represents are part of his own historical memory. He mines the past for these images of contented, dancing ethnicized and racialized figure types in order to concretize national history and identity in a later period.

Rocío Aranda Alvarado, Curator, El Museo del Barrio, New York

1) Candombe is a musical genre with African roots which was developed by slaves in Brazil and subsequently by escaped African slaves who made their way to Uruguay and Argentina.

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