September 2010

In the School of Rodrigo Peñalba (1908-1979)

Nicaraguan painting has its roots in the 50s as a purposeful enterprise of the National School of the Fine Arts, then under the direction of Rodrigo Peñalba who had returned to the country in the late 40s after a long formative period in Mexico, the United States and Italy. The school was simultaneously an academy and an aesthetic. Using French impressionism and post-impressionism, the students painted the light, colors and reality of the life and landscape of Nicaragua.

“Peñalba taught us to paint and draw as well as observe nature and its different tonalities,” recognizes one of his disciples. “He led the way in our artistic activity, showing us different schools and techniques, impressionism, expressionism, texture elaborated with spatulas or brushes.” In addition, surrealism, cubism, fauvism, pointillism, and constructivism combine with primitivism, popular handicraft and indigenous heritage to discover “the national” in Peñalba’s modern art of different languages, tendencies and techniques.

In colleague and friendship with Peñalba, this aesthetic and school, Fernando Saravia (1922-2009) plays an equal part in the foundation of the School of Fine Arts. Known primarily for his sculptures, his depiction of Nicaragua is direct, elemental, scenic, and lyrical. Volcanoes, lagoons, mountains, plains, and rural scenes that abound with bougainvilleas, rubber plants, oaks, and showering pink trees lead to the center of his paintings in the manner of Corot and the impressionists.

Without abandoning the academy, he utilizes abstraction through the treatment of color and traditional composition to create a strong and novel abstract impressionism. His work reveals both the impressionist’s view and abstraction of the Nicaraguan landscape.

Fundacion Ortiz-Guardian published this article in Nicaraguan Visual Arts in the 20th Century in 2006. Thank you to Juanita Bermudiz for permission to use the translation.

Rodrigo Penalba
Untitled (1945)
oil on cardboard
Collection Art Museum of the Americas

Landscape by Fernando Saravia
oil on canvas
Property of Central Bank of Nicaragua

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