Ricardo Aguerre

Ricardo Aguerre

Painter, designer, engraver.

He was born in Buenos Aires on August 29, 1897 and died in Montevideo on September 7, 1957.

When he was very young his family moved to Montevideo (Uruguay), where they settled.

Ricardo Aguerre studied at the Fine Arts Circle Development from 1917 to 1921, under the guidance of Professor Vicente Puig.

In 1921 he obtained  a scholarship  by the Ministry of Education to go to Europe and study at the Academy of Art in Munich and Paris in the Grande Chaumiere, together with the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, and in the workshops of André Lhote and Othon Favary Friesz.

In 1924 he began to practice the art of engraving at the Royal Institute of Florence with Professor Guido Balsamo.

He had exhibitions in Braga, in the Fine Arts (Madrid), in Buenos Aires and numerous solo exhibitions in Montevideo.

He returned to Montevideo in 1927 and in that same year he made two solo exhibitions at the Maveroff Hall and the Fine Arts Circle Development.

In 1928 he returned to Europe and came back in 1930, after visiting France, Spain and Portugal. He made new exhibitions in the Maveroff Hall. In March 15, 1933  he inaugurated the workshop of Plastic Arts Studies, organized by Gilberto Bellini and Antonio Pena. For the inauguration of the new classrooms of Friends of Art, in 1933, he realized a mural with poets and writers. In addition to numerous solo and group exhibitions that will continue after the creation of the National Exhibition in 1937 and the City in 1940, he received important awards. In December 1943 he became professor at the National School of Fine Arts.

For several decades he was Layout designer and illustrator for the Sunday Supplement of el Dia de Montevideo. In 1950 he went back to Europe with the scholarship Alejandro Gallinal and remained there until 1951. In 1954 he made a solo exhibition in Montevideo Fine Art Gallery.

Review

The historical avant-gardes (Fauvism, Expressionism, Futurism, Cubism, Neo-constructivism) represented a minority group and were little known or understood at the time.In the same period, without losing virulence, Dadaism and Surrealism shared space and time, but not aesthetics, with a kind of social commitment established from a neo-humanism movement,  a sort of moral warning, loaded with direct emotion, fighting against wars and promoting understanding among peoples. To formal searches and aesthetic radicalism, they opposed  the return to an even more rational and intellectualized naturalism then in the nineteenth century, passing through the sieve of academic cubism, having itself different orientations.

In Germany this movement emerged as a social criticism with expressionist mood on one side (Georg Grosz, Max Beckmann) or loaded with a new objectivity on the other (Otto Dix, Christian Schad),  although the limits were not so precise.

In Italy, it had a look into tradition, the Etruscan and Renaissance cultures, attempting to create a synthesis of artistic values (Felice Casorati, Mario Sironi, Massimo Campigli).

In France, coinciding with the classical period of Picasso, this trend or better, this state of interwar spirit was crossed by the disappointment for the  present times and the longing for the past, and peaked in the parable of the coming back to the visible and immediate reality, the definite abandonment (Vlaminck and André Derain fovistas) or transient Cubism teachers to moderate Art Deco minor masters, or influential preaching (in teaching) (Gromaire Marcel, André Lhote, Emile- Othon Friesz, Andre Dunoyer de Segonzac, Jean-Louis Boussingault, Luc-Albert Moreau, Roger de la Fresnaye, Christian Bérard). A wave which also spread to the United States (Thomas Benton, Grant Wood, Edward Hopper) in some cases with an accentuated regionalist character, while in Mexico it acquired the mural popular didactic dimension.

A call to the bourgeois order

“The protest of common sense,” claimed the historian Bernard Dorival, the good bourgeois sense, distrustful of the vanguards that altered the established canons and traditional values, afraid the striking strident and extreme radicalism. Without falling into academicism and realism of the past, neorealist pictures or neo-humanist or new sensibility, far from being a direct appropriation of immediate references are screened by subjective feelings, soft romantic features, appearing in the selection of earthy, gray and ochre, with figures tending to statics, modelling forms in almost sculptural sense, closed drawing, austere environments, within a framework of domestic poetry. A well-made painting, easily understandable by the public, a solid painting which captured the restlessness and the desire of peace of a society in transition. A painting without problems that could be enjoyed in the living room (other than the metaphysical intentions stated by Matisse) without questioning the individual and collective existence.

Evasion and conservatism at the same time in a balance between reason and emotion, an elegant disenchantment, a deaf anguish, as if the world had crystallized and did not admit changes, but kept imperturbable and still. The big building of appearing, a refuge for an uncertain future that was felt as a presage, a quiet space between the two world wars, so fragile and perishable as the exciting isms that, at least, interrogated and questioned the peaceful appearance of the existence, while totalitarianism, right and left, were imposing their hegemony in the development of a fanatical liar and illusory conception of society. Not all artists were aware of fallacies included in this return to the traditional representative forms and folded, explicitly or implicitly, to a monolithic aestheticism originated in the great ideological messianic speeches.

The resonance in the Rio de la Plata

In the Rio de la Plata there were echoes of such a plural neorealism, which was also called  social realism or socialist realism according to the ideologies or aesthetic trends. In Buenos Aires and Rosario, the painters Antonio Berni, Lino Eneas Spillimbergo, Ramon Gomez Cornet, Demetrio Urruchúa, Miguel Carlos Victorica, Victor Cunsolo, Alfredo Guttero, Fortunato Lacámera, Juan C. Castagnino, Manuel Colmeiro (Galician resident in Buenos Aires), the Uruguayan writer Guillermo Facio Hebequer (who like many other talents based in the nearby shore was Argentinized) represented important names of this movement without an identifying thematic or aesthetic uniformity. They maintained an affinity of goals, a proper disposition of this time (the German Zeigeist) without giving up their individualities corroborated through various hues that soon appeared, in addition to differences and antagonisms.

Many of them came back to Rio de La Plata after studying for many years in the Academies of Paris or Munich, as it was usual at that time, before receiving a durable placement

From a political point of view, the thirties represented an infamous decade in Argentina. Not so in the more powerful and innovative cultural field. Yet, Argentina was polarized, divided into elite centres in power and culture, and saw the emergence of popular sectors who to turn gathered in strong working partnerships with anarchist participation. The mobilizing stimulus came from the massive and contagious support to the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War, the rejection of Nazism and adherence to the Soviet regime (theater, cinema and trade publications played a very important role). Paradoxically, the aesthetic choices were contradictory and complex. The patricians of  Buenos Aires Friends of Art applauded David Alfaro Siqueiros and the leftists embraced modern art.

Later on the terms of this relationship changed or at least suffered transformations.

Referring to Antonio Berni, the essay writer Marcelo Pacheco wrote, in the catalog of the Buenos Aires Museum of Modern Art (1999): “The young Rosarion, living the intellectual and artistic Parisian bohemia joined the theoretical and practical fundamentals of the  Bretonian surrealism, the ideology of leftist groups close to the communist party and the teachings of engraving, as well as a strong ability to manage all the resources provided by the academic vanguard commanded by Othon Friesz and André Lhote. His contacts with Louis Aragon, Henri Lefebre and Max Jacob opened various fields of expertise and encouragement, many intertwined aspects and all fundamental for the further development of his work.”

The Uruguay of the Roaring Twenties and the dictatorships

Ricardo Aguerre lived in Paris with Berni and became a friend of his.

He went to Europe three times (1921-1927, 1928-1930, 1950); the first trip  was instrumental for his education and in definition of a style that, with few variations, remained unchanged throughout his career. As indicated above he was the winner of the National Scholarship Contest of Painting, as a student of the Fine Arts Circle Building, designed by Vicente Puig, so he went to the Academy of Art in Munich and had Willy Geiger as a teacher; in Paris he attended the Grande Chaumiere Academy, next to the sculptor Bourdelle, and the workshops of Othon Friesz and André Lhote (where also many other countrymen studied) and  shared classrooms with Berni and Spillimbergo and became friends forever.

With them Aguerre lived the Bohemian Paris, sharing the same workshop and taking part in meetings with outstanding people and movements as the already mentioned  Marcelo Pacheco pointed out in expressive synthesis.

Aguerre youthful vitality, his open and communicative temperament, allowed him to appreciate the atmosphere of the “crazy years”, the crossing of tango and jazz in the famous cafes of Montparnasse and Montmartre, the paraphernalia of new fashion and art, as well as the changes taking place in the social behavior of the emerging consumer society. Such enormous  baggage of experience did not lead him to adhere to the historical avantguard,   that he certainly knew.

Like other Uruguayan artists (Gilberto Bellini, Carmelo Rivello, Antonio Pena, Germán Cabrera, Amalia Nieto) he was not interested in the bold and innovative languages of that time and perhaps he did not even know the existence of a compatriot (a friend of Kandinsky, Mondrian, Van Dongen and Michel Seuphor), Joaquin Torres Garcia who was living in the same city in those years, that Bellini, Rivello and Prevosti had visited in 1929.

Ricardo Aguerre shared the same artistic ideals of Berni and Spillimbergo.  He did not live in the country in the happy decade of the twenties when the new paradigms of the Uruguayan society were designed,  the pictorial planism and art-deco, the new architecture, the footballing triumphs. He returned to Uruguay shortly before the collapse of democratic institutions (1933) that would last until 1942. The same happened in most of Latin America.

Culture, however, took an unusual role. Torres García returned in 1934 and began his fruitful teaching, Pedro Figari became ministerial artistic adviser and most painters, sculptors and engravers came together against fascism and the defense of the Spanish republic. Associations of intellectuals and artists were developed: Friends of Art, Art and Popular Culture, Paul Cézanne Group, ETAP (School of Visual Arts Workshop), AIAPE (Association of Intellectuals, Artists and Writers), CTIU (Confederation of Intelectual Workers of Uruguay) AAC (Association of Constructive Art), national and municipal halls, prolonged gatherings in cafes. David Alfaro Siqueiros, Demetrio Urruchúa (left a mural), Cecilia Markovich, Luis Falcini, Antonio Berni, Candido Portinari visited, teached and / or had exhibitions in Montevideo. Hectic years at various levels, no doubt.

Unlike his Argentine colleagues who picked up the subject of the homeless of the earth, the social conflicts and proletarian struggles, as well as several Uruguayans (Carlos Gonzalez, Norberto Berdía, Carlos Prevosti, Mazzey Luis Felipe Seade), Ricardo Aguerre prolonged Lhote’s post-cubist teaching  and remained within the prevailing planism with clear art-deco connotations. But with special characteristics. He avoided the sparkling chromatic palette by Joseph Cuneo, Carmel Arzadun or César A. Pesce Castro although his paintings were geometrized and shared some plastic aspects: outdoor scenes, indoor portraits, landscapes and, especially, self-portraits.

The solid job of a painter 

Ricardo Aguerre  painted many works in Paris in the febrile twenties:  landscapes of Montmartre (Moulin de la Galette, the Rue Norvins), the river Seine, the cafes that he frequented, in his third voyage, as Mabillon and Flore (sometimes with a strong energy that will later disappear), but his major works are dated in the late twenties and thirties, the most personal ones because in the forties his style became less smooth, before that his work as illustrator for a Sunday supplement would absorb most of his time.

In compositions, which were sometimes large, he demonstrated his interest in collective tasks (Vintage, 1932, Tambo La Amistad, 1932, Playing the guitar, 1942) and the Launderers, Jars, Feria de Portugal, a country where he had been, on his second voyage, to “kill saudades” of Lusitanian maternal ancestors.

A regionalist vision circulated in these works, very close to the Portuguese Eduardo Vianna and the Italian Mario Sironi, sympathy for the poor country workers in their hours of work or rest which made him closer to social realism.

In Launderers, c.1930, he is relating to the planists (very evident also in the morning sun, 1949, where he puts thematically together  the two ends by opposing  a couple of workers to the passage of two children with tunicas ) and surrounds the static vintage figures in a peaceful, bucolic atmosphere but without giving space volumetric roundness of forms. In Tambo La Amistad he combines the geometrization of a city landscape with the volume of bodies in a lively street scene of low Montevideo.

There is a permanent formal dialectic between the social narrative of popular origin and the need of  formal abstraction, between the approach to the immediate life and emotional distance.

Ricardo Aguerre’s images are based on a closed, precise and waving pattern (in Washerwomen and Bathers there is a vertical rhythm of linked arabesques), they are firm and without the virtuosity leading to enhance the emotion that will never burst.

The light softly models the forms and subordinates colours to the concept of clear drawing and the rigor of the classics. A concentrated centripetal force is felt in Young people reading, 1929,  exacerbated by the hard edges of the forms, the multiplication of small plans guiding the eye, as in other portraits or motherhoods (variations of Renaissance Madonnas) of the same period.

Bourgeois interiors are discreetly represented, deprived of the background elements where persons are reading, detached and calm, in a set structured with a geometrical shapes far from any epidermal feeling.

The predominance of the earthy, ocher and blue gray colors, without any intrusion of a warm color guides the compositions. The search for a  balance between reason and emotion, between the values of modernity and the nineteenth-century realism, is felt in Ricardo Aguerre work who did not trust the vanguards of his time and also rejected the naturalist emotional feelings. That is why he is unclassifiable.

He has points in common  with his close contemporaries (in Argentina and Uruguay) but receives the legacy of the classic Italian artists and movement Valori Plastici; he admits the desire for synthesis of the post-cubism and finds its own rhythm, a personal tone that reflects certain aspects of society and the taste of his time. “The honor of art is in drawing,” said Ingres. And Aguerre took that statement to its logical conclusion. Engravings, illustrations and drawings show the vigor of the stroke, always safe, but never schematic, which is the same principle guiding his oil paintings supported by a solid interior architecture in his most inspired moments.

La República 6/2/2001

Biografia

 

He had exhibitions in Braga, in the Fine Arts (Madrid), in Buenos Aires and numerous solo exhibitions in Montevideo.

He returned to Montevideo in 1927 and in that same year he made two solo exhibitions at the Maveroff Hall and the Fine Arts Circle Development.

In 1928 he returned to Europe and came back in 1930, after visiting France, Spain and Portugal. He made new exhibitions in the Maveroff Hall. In March 15, 1933 he inaugurated the workshop of Plastic Arts Studies, organized by Gilberto Bellini and Antonio Pena. For the inauguration of the new classrooms of Friends of Art, in 1933, he realized a mural with poets and writers. In addition to numerous solo and group exhibitions that will continue after the creation of the National Exhibition in 1937 and the City in 1940, he received important awards. In December 1943 he became professor at the National School of Fine Arts.

For several decades he was Layout designer and illustrator for the Sunday Supplement of el Dia de Montevideo. In 1950 he went back to Europe with the scholarship Alejandro Gallinal and remained there until 1951. In 1954 he made a solo exhibition in Montevideo Fine Art Gallery.

Selected Images