The face of Argentina...


10/20/16 - Let's try to find, throughout the History of Art, which is the face that represents us as a Nation. To do so, we'll go over the portraits at the Bellas Artes Museum and see the changes in time, while we define an identity of our own. 
Dr Vicente López, by Carlos Morel (1844)           
Technique: engraving on paper / Measures: 28.5 x 20.5 cm
Retrato de Doña Macedonia Escardó, by Carlos Morel (1839)
Technique: oil on canvas / Measures: 74.5 x 64.5 cm
Retrato de Manuelita Rosasby Prilidiano Pueyrredón (1851)
Technique: oil on canvas / Measures: 199 x 166 cm
Retrato de Manuel J. de Guerrico, by Carlos Enrique Pellegrini
Technique: pastels on paper / Measures: 59 x 47.5 cm
In the 19th century, portraits depicted the political class and all those who could afford to have themselves painted. Those were the faces that defined the political and economic power in Argentina.  As for the upper classes, the portraits were part of the home decor and a way to perpetuate the image of the ancestors. The faces were idealized, with no smiles and much solemnity, and the subjects wore their best clothes.
Retrato de Señora A.P. de Pagneux, by Antonio Alice (1911)
TTechnique: oil on canvas / Measures: 101.8 x 69.5 cm
In the 20th century, portraits became more realistic. The skill of the artist became of true importance to depict the true nature of the subject, who was still a member of the upper classes. Almost by mid-Century, artist Antonio Berni portraits his daughter with true modernity: no idealization but the real features of the girl, who wears a simple outfit. With the progress of photography, the people stop commissioning portraits to painters. The photographic portraits of those days, kept in the Museum's collection, show mostly icons, such as writers Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortazar.
Lily, by Antonio Berni (1943)
Technique: oil on canvas / Measures: 100 x 70 cm
Jorge Luis Borges, by Eduardo Comesaña (1969)
Technique: photography / Measures: 34 x 25 cm
Julio Cortázar, by Sara Facio 
Technique: photography / Measures: 40 x 29 cm 
Paula Rossi en el colectivo, by Alfredo Srur (2001)
Technique: photography / Measures: 30 x 24 cm
A portrait registers an intimate moment, but also a very primitive aspect of the human being, which can be defined as the fear of death. So it becomes a way to resist. 
Overall, we can say the face of Argentina lacks smiles and pretends to always display its best assets. Today portraits show common people and have become mostly self-portraits: selfies!

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Liliana Wrobel

Production & Translation

Carla Mitrani