Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Pedro Lira

Fundacion de Santiago
oil on cloth
other detail unknown

The painting, dating from 1888, was exhibited at the 1889 Paris Universial Exposition, where it won a 2nd medal. It was purchased by the government for $4,000. The moment depicted is Pedro de Valdivia's founding of the city in 1541 onto of the Cerro de Santa Lucia.

Pedro Francisco Lira Rencoret (1845-1912) was a Chilean painter and art critic, who organized exhibitions that led to the establishment of the Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts. He is best known for his eclectic portraits of women.

He was born into a wealthy family and his father was a Minister of the Court of Appeals. In 1867, he graduated the University of Chile (specializing in Law), but gave up his plans for a legal career to pursue painting instead. In 1872, he won a medal at a competition celebrating the establishment of the Mercado Central de Santiago. Encouraged by this, he was able to obtain a grant to study in Europe, going there with his wife. He lived in France from 1873 to 1884 and was influenced by Eugene Delacroix. Later, he received an "honorable mention" at the Salon, where little recognition was generally given to Latin American artists. But, despite his successes, he decided to return to Chile, as the time appeared ripe to create an artistic milieu comparable to that in Paris.

Soon after his arrival, he organized the first exposition devoted exclusively to Chilean painters. He also created a Salon, similar to the one in Paris, and helped establish a museum. In 1892, he was appointed Director of the "Escuela de Bellas Artes" (formerly the "Academia de Pintura"), a position he held until his death. While there, he was a mentor for promising new artists. Several historical paintings of his have been used on Chilean banknotes.