The best-known Peruvian artist of the 20th Century would turn out to be Mario Urteaga. Urteaga (born in Cajamarca in 1875) did not become a professional artist until he was in forty. A painter in the indigenous style before that term had really been applied to art, Urteaga was the first to paint Andean men and women in their native context and his art showed no cosmopolitan or European influences. In 1955, barely two years before his death, Urteaga became known in Lima and internationally for his portraits and depictions of the customs of his times. His vigorous style and paradoxical visual poetry have made Mario Urteaga one of the few Peruvians with works in great galleries such as the New York Museum of Art.

Entierro en Cajamarca
(Mario Urteaga)

Plaza de Huancavelica
(Camilo Blas)

Jose Sabogal was different, although he too was born in Cajamarca. From an early age he knew he wanted to be an artist. He came to Lima at the age of 20, but his goal was Rome, so he quickly moved on to Europe via Panama. In Italy he made contact with the dominant schools of that era. Sabogal then went to France and visited the coast of Africa before moving to Spain. From Madrid Sabogal traveled to Buenos Aires where he led a bohemian life and came once more into contact with the Andes. This was a turning point and drove him to return to Peru. In Cusco Sabogal's painting was influenced by the scenery, the light and the people. In July 1919 he held his first exhibition, which caused a considerable stir in a city that had turned its back on realism in favor of European imagination. This was the beginning of the indigenous movement, which tried to express in visual form the ideology of the time. Sabogal was appointed to succeed Daniel Hernandez as director of Lima's School of Fine Art, a post he occupied until 1943 when he decided to dedicate himself exclusively to painting.


A nephew of Mario Urteaga, Camilo Blas - real name Jose Alfonso Sanchez Urteaga - was born in Cajamarca in 1903 and demonstrated talent as an artist from a very early age. Following family tradition, however, he practiced as a lawyer in La Libertad until finally in 1928 he won a painting competition with a work demonstrating his predilection for indigenous themes. He later enrolled in the School of Fine Art in Lima, where he would receive the technical instruction he needed. Camilo Blas became a close friend of Sabogal and together they would travel to La Paz to paint murals. On his return to Peru Camilo Blas lived in Cusco and produced paintings and engravings, which were exhibited in Lima. Later he traveled extensively in Peru with like-minded artists. Camilo Blas is well known in Peru. In 1946 he won the Ignacio Merino National Prize for Painting and later taught at Lima's School of Fine Art until his death in 1985.

The fourth Cajamarcan artist with a place in the history of Peruvian art is Andres Zevallos, a prolific artist and a veritable patriarch in his native land. In 1937 Zevallos came to Lima to study with Sabogal at the School of Fine Art, then returned to Cajamarca. In 1945 he began teaching art and history at San Ramon school in Cajamarca. Zevallos was always involved in the cultural life of his native city and he founded a branch of the National Institute of Culture in Cajamarca. As well as painting he wrote stories and essays on Cajamarcan artists.

La Santusa
(José Sabogal)


Author: Luis Lama
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