Pedro Figari

Pedro Figari Solari (Montevideo, June 29, 1861 – July 24, 1938) was a Uruguayan painter, lawyer, writer, and journalist. One of the most outstanding figures of Latin American painting, characterized by its own style and its Americanist will. Although he did not begin the practice until his later years, he is best known as an early modernist painter who emphasized capturing the everyday aspects of life in his work. In most of his pieces, he attempts to capture the essence of his home by painting local customs that he had observed in his childhood.

Figari painted during a period in which the members of the art community in South America were in the process of struggling to find their own personal style. Mainly, they wanted to separate their style from that of the Europeans. Figari is noted as one of the first painters to veer away from this typical European style and instead create something original and new. He “considered that European civilization had entailed the loss of a harmonious and simple life, while America offered the possibility of returning to the origins. He rejects the idea to paint mechanistically determined matters, instead emphasizing energy and life.

Son of Juan Figari de Lázaro and Paula Solari, both Italian immigrants, Pedro Figari manifested from young artistic inclinations that postponed by his studies and professional activities.

In 1885 he received a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the Faculty of Law and Social Sciences of the University of the Republic. His degree thesis, Agrarian Law, was published.

The following year he married Maria de Castro Caravia and traveled for the first time to Europe. In 1887, his first daughter, Isabel, was born. He died shortly after birth, and later came María Elena, Mercedes, María Margarita, María Delia, Juan Carlos, María Isabel, Emma and Pedro. At age 29 he attended painting classes with the Italian master Goffredo Sommavilla, but it was not until 1918 that he gave rein to his painting vocation.

In 1915, he became director of the School of Arts and Crafts, where he proposed new workshops in a mixed regime, aimed at training not only in the art of crafts but also in linking industry and art with an American identity, fostering “the national mentality With own criterion “. His outstanding work as a lawyer, politician, journalist, writer, pedagogue and humanist make it impossible to dissociate the content and richness of his paintings from the other facets that nourished his action and thought.

He had an intense public activity, in 1889 was designated Defender of the Poor in the Civil and Criminal, position that would occupy until 1897.

In 1895 he undertook the defense of Ensign Enrique Almeida, falsely accused of a murder committed at the corner of Calle Chaná and Arenal Grande. The cause took four years of work, but finally revealed the innocence of Almeida. In 1896 he published the famous Cause. The crime of Chaná Street, vindication of Ensign Enrique Almeida, where he exposed the interests of the press stubborn to blame Almeida.

In 1897 he was elected deputy of the Colorado Party by the department of Rocha and in 1900 and 1902 by Lavalleja. In those years he presented a bill for the creation of a school of Fine Arts, he served as State Councilor, was appointed advisory lawyer of the National Department of Engineers, member of the Penitentiary Council and presided over the Ateneo de Montevideo, from where he promoted projects Cultural activities.

During the Revolution of 1904 he was appointed President of the Central Board of Aid created by José Batlle y Ordóñez to provide medical assistance to the wounded after the battles.

In 1927 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs appointed him member of the special mission before King George V of England with the rank of Minister Plenipotentiary, shortly after received the Order of the British Empire in the Palace of Buckingham.

In 1893 he began his journalistic activity, founding and co-directing the liberal daily Colorado El Deber. In 1905 he published in the newspaper El Siglo twenty-two articles that were defining for the abolition of the death penalty in Uruguay in 1907. Between 1910 and 1911 published in the newspaper La Razón nineteen articles under the title “The political moment”.

Figari used the press to publicize and publicly expose his point of view on political issues, education and art.

In 1912 he published his three-volume philosophical essay, Art, aesthetics, an ideal that took him two years of almost total dedication, which was translated into French by Charles Lesca, published in Paris in 1920 with a prologue by Henri Delacroix and reprinted in 1926 Prologue by Désiré Roustan.

Being director of the School of Arts and Crafts, published his General Plan of the Industrial Education and wrote along with his son the architect Juan Carlos Figari Integral Education.

In 1928, after the premature death of his son Juan Carlos, he published the poetic essay with graphic quotations. The Architect wrote a series of short stories and the utopian novel Historia Kiria, which was published in 1930 in Paris.

The philosophical tradition of Figari, contrary to what is commonly thought, is by no means ephemeral, and certainly not only part of his pictorial tradition, since, like the German romanticism, of which Figari is indebted, he tries to express ideas Of utmost complexity related to the sense of existence, of life, and even of what can be understood through art through the aesthetic conception, is therefore precise, to recall what Arturo Ardao says about the necessary conceptual separation between The esthete, the painter and the philosopher who lived together in Figari.

In 1915, as head of the School of Arts and Trades, Figari led an ambitious and modern educational project. It created new workshops, changed the boarding system for an external one, incorporated mixed workshops, eliminated punishments, optimized resources and, in just over a year, managed to double the school population. For Figari it was not enough to teach a technique or trade, he sought an integral formation that developed the personality and vocation of students, linking the manual activity with the intellectual, using experimental procedures, awakening the capacity for observation and fostering productive creativity with An Americanist aesthetic.11 In a Uruguay that was not ready for its avant-garde vision, Figari was faced with strong political and economic interests that disapproved of his project and in 1917 presented his resignation. His position at the head of the School was then played by the painter and caricaturist Hermenegildo Sábat Lleó.

It was only after 1918, after the failure of his educational project and to separate from his wife, who decides to devote himself to painting. He was almost 60 years old and a few oil notes, portraits and watercolors made in the free time of his youth. In a short time he consolidated his artistic vocation and in 1921 he left with five of his children to Buenos Aires to devote himself exclusively to painting. He found in Buenos Aires the favorable environment and the stimulus to develop his subjects. He was linked to the circle of intellectuals working in the Buenos Aires magazine Martín Fierro, who gave him unconditional support. Among other personalities of the environment he became friends with Jorge Luis Borges, Oliverio Girondo, Raul Monsegur, Manuel Güiraldes and Ricardo Güiraldes. In 1921 he made his first exhibition at Galeria Müller together with his son Juan Carlos Figari Castro. In 1925 they moved to Paris, exhibited at the Druet Gallery and soon began the recognition that consecrated him as one of the most important painters of the River Plate. In his workshop in Paris was visited by the most illustrious artists and intellectuals of the moment, such as writers Jules Supervielle, Paul Valéry, James Joyce, Jules Romains, Alejo Carpentier and painters Pierre Bonnard, Édouard Vuillard, Pablo Picasso, Joaquín Torres García, Ignacio Zuloaga and Fernand Léger.

He painted scenes that recreate the historical and social past, seeking to rescue the memory of the land and strengthen regional and American identity. Their cartons were populated by black candomberos, pericones, cielitos, gauchos, pampas, ombúes, colonial courtyards, ballrooms, burials, bullfights, bowlers. With its brushstroke resolved, full of vitality, the Creole traditions revive and the Rioplatense collective memory takes on color. As an intuitive painter, he took up certain formal achievements of Impressionism to transform them into a personal and unrepeatable style, from which no other influences are recognized.

In 1933 he returned to Montevideo with an enormous pictorial production. In 1938 he made his last exhibition in Buenos Aires and a few days later he died in Montevideo. Their remains rest in the Central Cemetery.

Figari painted primarily from memory, a technique that gives his work a far more personal feeling. With his unique style, which involved painting without the intention to create an illusion, he, along with other prominent Latin-American artists such as Diego Rivera and Tarsila do Amaral, sparked a revolution of identity in the art world of Latin America.

During his travels in Europe, Pedro Figari was exposed to a large about of Post-Impressionist art. His own paintings showed early modernist traits, as they had an emphasis on flatness and the surface of the canvas. Modernist painting rejected the idea of creating an illusion on the canvas. Rather than focusing on the form and technique of the work, modernist painters brought attention to the content. Much like this, Figari’s paintings highlighted the materials that were used. He did not paint with the intention to portray a subject realistically; He painted to capture the ideas a feeling behind a piece, and did this by using certain brush-strokes that were determined by what was appropriate for the part of the piece he was painting. Although something in his piece might academically be considered poorly drawn, it is more often than not far more expressive than the most accurate paintings of the Old Masters.