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Blanes, Juan Manuel (c. 1830–1901)

Blanes, Juan Manuel (c. 1830–1901)

Juan Manuel Blanes (b. c. 1 June 1830; d. 15 April 1901), Uruguayan artist, regarded as the founder of Uruguayan art. Born in Montevideo, Blanes abandoned school at age eleven to work and help his humble family. Around 1843 he moved with his mother and brothers to El Cerrito, returning to Montevideo in 1853, where he made his living as a typographer. In 1855 Blanes moved to the town of Salto, where he taught painting at the School of Humanities and painted commissioned portraits. In 1856 he painted eight pictures of Justo José de Urquiza's military victories for the general's San José Palace. He returned to Montevideo at the outbreak of a yellow fever epidemic, which he documented in a now lost painting (1857). At Urquiza's request he painted the general's family as well as religious themes for the chapel at San José Palace. In 1860, on a grant from the Uruguayan government, he moved to Paris, then to Florence, where he studied at the Florentine Academy with Antonio Ciseri. From then on academic neoclassicism marked his artistic production.

In 1865 Blanes returned to Uruguay and for the next fifteen years received commissions to paint the portraits of famous Latin American personalities, including Paraguayan President Francisco Solano López. His historical paintings earned him prestige in Argentina and Chile. Blanes revealed a naturalistic approach to painting when dealing with subjects of contemporary significance (Yellow Fever in Buenos Aires, 1871) and in his series of gauchos (Dawn). From 1879 to 1883 he was living once again in Florence, where he painted Paraguay: Image of Your Desolate Country (c. 1880), an allegorical image of Paraguay after the devastating War of the Triple Alliance. After returning to Montevideo in 1883, he worked on a portrait of Uruguayan general José Artigas. The Argentine government commissioned his renowned Review of Río Negro by General Roca and His Army. Blanes moved to Pisa in 1898, where he died. He was buried at the Pantéon Nacional in Montevideo.

See alsoArt: The Nineteenth Century; Urquiza, Justo José de; War of the Triple Alliance.


Angel Kalenberg et al., Seis maestros de la pintura uruguaya (1987).

Dawn Ades, Art in Latin America: The Modern Era, 1820–1980 (1989), pp. 28-30, 68.

Additional Bibliography

Cerisola, Roberto Amigo, and Gabriel Peluffo Linari, eds. Juan Manuel Blanes: La nación naciente, 1830–1901. Montevideo, Uruguay: Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes Juan Manuel Blanes, 2001.

García Esteban, Fernando. Juan Manuel Blanes, pintor: Revisión histórico crítica y algunas orientaciones estimativas. Montevideo, Uruguay: Academia Nacional de Letras, 1977.

Goldaracena, Ricardo. Juan Manuel Blanes. Montevideo, Uruguay: Arca, 1978.

                                      Marta Garsd

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