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Castro, José Gil de (c. 1785–c. 1841)

Castro, José Gil de (c. 1785–c. 1841)

José Gil de Castro (b. ca. 1785; d. ca. 1841), Peruvian artist and cartographer. Known as "El Mulato Gil," he was first to paint portraits of the heroes of the South American Wars of Independence. Born in Lima under Spanish viceroyal rule, he probably apprenticed with a master of the old colonial school. His Portrait of Fernando VII (1812) was influenced by Francisco de Goya. He accompanied Bernardo O'Higgins in his military campaign for Chilean independence. In Santiago he executed several portraits, including those of General José de San Martín, O'Higgins, and their military collaborators. O'Higgins appointed him captain of the engineering corps of the revolutionary army for his expertise in engineering and cartography.

Gil de Castro returned to Peru via Argentina with San Martín's troops and in 1822 was named chamber painter of the Peruvian state. He became the Peruvian aristocracy's favorite portrait painter. In his several portraits of Simón Bolívar, Gil de Castro displayed his fascination with military regalia. His portrayal of sitters in frontal and full-length images recalls votive paintings. Craftsmanship, absence of perspective, and the incorporation of inscriptions into framed plaques in his paintings relate Gil de Castro to colonial painting traditions. A provincial neoclassicist, he was the first representative in Latin America of an independent and naive pictorial school.

See alsoAct: The Nineteenth Century .


Jaime Eyzaguirre, José Gil de Castro: Pintor de la independencia americana (1950).

Dawn Ades, Art in Latin America: The Modern Era, 1820–1980 (1989), pp. 17-21.

Additional Bibliography

Mariátegui Oliva, Ricardo. José Gil de Castro. Lima: 1981.

                                            Marta Garsd

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