March 10, 2018
Escuela de Pintura del Cusco

The Cusco school of painting

Many of Peru’s most interesting histories and characters were born from the mix of races and cultures; the same thing happened with painting. The Cusco school of painting originated in the 17th century from the convergence of two important streams: the artistic tradition from the West and the indigenous vision of the world.

The Jesuit priest Bernardo Bitti arrived to Peru in 1583, with the mission of making the altarpiece for his order in Cusco, introducing mannerism. This style highlighted long figures, focused light, close-ups, details and color. The painters from Lima copied the style but other trends arrived, such as baroque and Flemish art, giving life to the art from Cusco.

Indigenous painters such as Diego Quispe Tito, Basilio Santa Cruz Pumacallao and Marcos Zapata amazed people of their time for their ability to acculturate, and firmly capture the essential elements of Christian faith with losing their own personal style. This special sensitivity to understand the faith and pity of the moments of Christ’s life was celebrated by the priests who commissioned the painting of murals in their temples. Today these are admired by tourists that are amazed by unique scenes such as the “Lady of Our Milk” (La Virgen de la Leche.)

Nobody had ever painted with an easel and canvas in Peru before the Spanish arrived. Only murals were painted. However, when a canvas was started to be used, the school of Cusco added to the paintings frames with filigree work using gold and silver leaves. All of this makes it a unique style that remains until now.