Little is known about Charles de Gouffra. Art historian Álvaro Medina believes that the name was a pseudonym for the director of the publication in which this article appeared [see Medina, Álvaro. Procesos del arte en Colombia (Bogotá: Colcultura, 1978), p. 42)]; critic and journalist Pedro Carlos Manrique Convers, among others, suggests that it could be Andrés de Santamaría (1860–1945), a Colombian painter who lived in Belgium crucial to introducing European Impressionism and post-Impressionism [to Colombia] [López Rosas, William Alfonso. La crítica de arte en el Salón de 1899: una aproximación a los procesos de configuración del campo artístico en Colombia, unpublished master’s thesis in history and theory of art and architecture, Universidad Nacional of Colombia (Bogotá, 2005, p. 99)]. The documentation from the period, though, has provided no definitive proof of the author’s identity.
Regardless, the text “El impresionismo en pintura” is fundamental to understanding the complexity of the debate surrounding the last art salon to be held in Colombia in the 19th century, just a few weeks before the outbreak of the Thousand Days’ War (1899-1902). This debate marked the end of the first period of modernization of Colombian art, a period that witnessed the founding and consolidation of the Escuela de Bellas Artes (1886). Key figures in this debate included Epifanio Garay (1849–1903), Max Grillo (1868–1949), and Jacinto Albarracín.
This document is also key to reconstructing the introduction of turn-of-the-century French painting and, mostly, to providing a critical perspective on the polemic surrounding Impressionism unleashed by Andrés de Santamaría’s painting, especially the work he exhibited at the first art salon held in the 20th century (Bogotá, 1904). While this text is not the first time the term “Impressionism” is used in Colombian art criticism, it is the first attempt to understand that movement in relation to its historical context and in the framework of its complex original aesthetic formulation.
Though Revista ilustrada (1898-1899) cannot be identified with a specific group of intellectuals, it did register the rupture in literature that ensued with the onset of Modernism under the leadership of figures like poet José Asunción Silva (1865-1896) [See Cadavid, Jorge H. “Revista ilustrada (1898 - 1899): de la Ilustración al Modernismo”. Boletín cultural y bibliográfico. Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango. Banco de la República de Colombia, Vol. XXXI, No. 36, Bogotá, 1995: 39].