Thursday, April 24, 2014

Lira, Pedro

La Siesta (The Siesta)
late 1880s
oil on canvas
80 x 62.9 cm
Private collection

Pedro Lira  (1845-1912) was a Chilean painter. He was one of the founders of the Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts.

He came from a wealthy family, allowing him to study at Santiago's Instituto Nacional and, at age 16, enrolled in the Academia de Pintura. In addition to studying painting, in 1867, he also took a degree in law at the National University. But, with his law degree finished, he took up painting as a full-time profession. In 1873, he traveled to Paris to continue his artistic studies. He remained in Paris until 1884, training in academic art and producing works on both historical and mythological themes. He was a fan of Eugene Delacroix, copying several of his paintings.

After his return to Chile in 1884, helped by the innovative spirit of the then Chilean government, he had an opportunity to create an environment similar to the Parisian culture and exhibit his art. He began to promote local artistic production: founding the Union Artistica; organizing the first 'Chilean' art exhibition and becoming well known as a critic. Working through the Union Artistica, being secured by the government, he put up some of his personal funds to open the permanent home of the Museo de Pintura, in the Quinta Normal de Agricultura. He was also appointed to the Comision de Bellas Artes, which ran the museum and sponsored the annual Santiago Salons. Additionally, he translated foreign-language works on art history and wrote a Diccionario Biografico de Pintores. In 1892 he was named director of the Escuela de Bellas Artes (Academia de Pintura) and held the position until his death, becoming the first Chilean to direct the institution and an important influence on Chilean painters. He was a prolific painter, his known works number more than 500.