During the 1940s Uruguay enjoyed a period of socio-economic development that was buttressed by favorable rates of exchange in international commerce driven mainly by the scarcities created in Europe by the Second World War. In these circumstances, the country’s cultural life was able to grow and develop in several areas, finding expression in a variety of artistic activities. That time of cultural prosperity saw the birth of “independent theater,” a phenomenon that continued to grow through the 1950s and 1960s and is still with us today. The members of a theater group called “La isla,” youngsters directed by Atahualpa del Cioppo (1904–1996), joined forces with another group, the “Teatro del Pueblo,” to start a new institution, now known as the “Teatro El Galpón,” whose repertoire included universal and Latin American drama.
Atahualpa del Cioppo was an art critic who made a name for himself in the 1930s and 1940s, and wrote essays about the exhibitions of artists such as José Cúneo, Leandro Castellanos Balparda, and others. Following the onset of the civil-military dictatorship (1973–1984) del Cioppo was forced into exile with the cast of the Teatro El Galpón. During that period he taught theater in Mexico City.
Leandro Catellanos Balparda, in particular, was an exponent of social realism in his woodcut prints, which addressed the subject of repression, war, and their consequences. In the mid-1930s he joined the Asociación de Arte Constructivo, where he was briefly in contact with Joaquín Torres García (1874–1949), who expelled him from the AAC in late 1935 over some differences of opinion. He was clearly a supporter of left-wing politics, though he was not very involved in the intellectual groups and collectives that were active at the time. In the late 1930s he worked as an illustrator for Ensayos, the magazine directed by the historian Eugenio Petit Muñoz (1896–1977), and for AIAPE magazine.