This brief essay evidences some of the debates—and basic confusions—operative in certain sectors of the Colombian intelligentsia of the twenties and thirties and, hence, it is pertinent to how local criticism responded to certain terms and notions essential to Modernism.
In this case, Alfonso Dávila (under the pseudonym “Alfonso María de Ávila”) discusses Colombian painter Francisco Antonio Cano (1865–1935) and his surroundings, focusing specifically on what he considers the “objectivity” of his work as a “portrait artist.” This forms the basis for a brief discussion of the division between objectivity and subjectivity in art. Though subjectivity is, for an array of reasons, the cornerstone of Modern art, Dávila asserts that the “landscape” genre represents “the intimate and the heartfelt, as well as the notion of self-perception” and is, as such, subjective by definition. On the other hand, he considers some of Cano’s portraits “objective.” Thus, Dávila deems the landscape genre innately subjective and the portrait genre innately objective.
The work and career of art critic Alfonso Dávila, as well as his historical, theoretical, and critical points of reference, are, unfortunately, little known. Regardless, this article is essential to understanding some of the notions operative in Colombian art criticism from the first half of the 20th century as well as factors that help explain the place that Cano, as an ultra-academic painter, occupied in the Colombian art scene of the twenties and thirties.