Pedro Figari, Off for the Honeymoon, 1918/1925. Oil on particle board.
Pedro Figari (Montevideo, Uruguay, 1861-1938), white artist, is one emblematic artist of Latin-American modernism, merging, in his painting, a very particular style of gestures and movement, and the desire to establish a sovereign territory, based on its historical and ethnic roots. In this sense, Figari dedicated most of his life — as a lawyer of outstanding public voice — to the defense of human rights, education and art. He was the director of the School of Arts and Crafts in Montevideo and there he proposed the association between industry and art through a Latin American identity, aiming to foster “the national mentality with its own criteria.”
The exhibition Pedro Figari: African Nostalgias refers to the title of one of his paintings, and includes a profusion of daily scenes, conveying dignity and complexity to the Afro-Uruguayans — there are groups that dance candombes and bailongos, live in the courtyards of collective houses or perform traditional funeral ceremonies. Although the scenes that Figari painted can not be considered a faithful historical record, they represent the desire to recognize the historical and cultural importance of the Uruguayan populations of African origin in urban contexts — not only in the world of work, nature and eroticism, as they often are in Brazil.
(Photo courtesy of MFA Houston.)