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Kelly Donahue-Wallace surveys the art and architecture created in the Spanish Viceroyalties of New Spain, Peru, New Granada, and La Plata from the time of the conquest to the independence era. Emphasizing the viceregal capitals and their social, economic, religious, and political contexts, the author offers a chronological review of the major objects and monuments of the colonial era.
In order to present fundamental differences between the early and later colonial periods, works are offered chronologically and separated by medium—painting, urban planning, religious architecture, and secular art—so the aspects of production, purpose, and response associated with each work are given full attention. Primary documents, including wills, diaries, and guild records are placed throughout the text to provide a deeper appreciation of the contexts in which the objects were made.
Posted January 22, 2009
This learned tour through the three centuries of Latin American art and architecture, reflecting the teaching style of the author who teaches art history at a Texas university, 'include[s] fewer objects and monuments than found in the typical broad survey' so that the fewer chosen can be given greater discussion to the reader's benefit. Donahue-Wallace wanted to avoid the common 'laundry list' leaving readers to memorize innumerable titles, dates, and artists without really learning much about the art. Still mainly a survey covering centuries of a variety of art, with Donahue-Wallace putting the works their social context, it easily surpasses the usual introductory survey, for example, in implanting knowledge of the subject. The three centuries from 1521 to 1821 were the long period of Spanish colonial domination of practically all of Latin America (notably excluding Brazil not included in this work). The overarching social context was Spanish colonial rule. As the author's chronological tour makes clear, there was a clearly noticeable evolution of art and architecture in this period even though it all evidences the impress of the European masters and their culture. The viceregal art began with the earliest Spanish Catholic missions. What limited art there was was primitive. The missions were simple as well, with little embellishment beyond archways, folk art religious figures, and murals. With the growth of cities and intermixing of populations as Spanish rule took root throughout Latin America. art and architecture became correspondingly more complex and sophisticated. Churches and municipal buildings were built on the grand scale. Especially impressive were the altarscreens, 'also known as an altarpiece and ornamental construction behind the altar, usually bearing painted or sculpted images of religious themes' (from the Glossary). Paintings especially rivaled those of France and England of the period for their level of accomplishment. Spaniards, Native Americans, and mixed race artists were all involved in art that was a testament to the Spanish colonial presence and affirmation of its control and administration. Aristocrats from Spain and businessmen who grew wealthy from the imposed Spanish economic system for exploiting the riches of the colonies used architecture and art to signify their high status. With her approach seeing the works within their social context, Donahue-Wallace regularly discusses the origins, subjects, and symbolisms of the art works. The outstanding survey of Spanish colonial art in all parts of Latin America is heavily illustrated with 104 black-and-white illustrations accompanying the text and 32 color plates grouped together. This colonial art shaping Latin American art and culture long after Spanish rule ended in the early 1800s--and continuing to shape it--is seen today not only in museums, but also in the churches and buildings of many city plazas throughout Latin America from Mexico to Argentina and Chile.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.