Chile Arts and Music Part II

By | December 11, 2021

Figurative arts

Architecture. – Before 1780 there were no buildings with artistic value in Chile. The first architect, to whom the construction of public buildings was commissioned by royal order, was the Roman Gioacchino Toesca, who raised the Mint in Santiago, which was then transformed into the residence of the presidents of the republic and seat of various ministries. The Intendency, carried out in collaboration with the architect Jaraquemada, is also due to him; the Cajas, palace of the former Spanish residents; the facade of the cathedral; the churches of La Merced, Santo Domingo and San Juan de Dios; the Tajamar and many private buildings. Even today these constructions constitute a significant part of the Chilean architectural heritage. Other noteworthy buildings are: the Congress building built by the architects Henault (French) and Aldunate (Chilean); L’ state university, built by the Henault; the Club Hípico, one of the most typical and majestic racecourses on the continent; the Biblioteca Nacional, the Club de la Unión. For Chile 2003, please check

Painting. – Precursors of the pictorial activity in Chile can be considered the colonel of the English army Carlo Wood (born in 1792 and arrived in Chile in 1820), Giovanni Maurizio Rugendas (born in Augusta in 1799 and lived for some years in Chile); Raimondo Quinsac Monvoisin (born in Bordeaux in 1795 and went to Chile in 1845) and the Italians Petri (18th century), and Dominiconi (19th century). But we can only speak of Chilean painting with the foundation (1849) of the Academy of Fine Arts, commissioned by President Bulnes (1849). The organization and then the direction was entrusted to the Italian Alessandro Cicarelli who held this position until 1869. Under his guidance the first group of Chilean painters was formed: Nicola Guzmán Bustamante, Antonio Smith, Emanuele Antonio Caro, Pasquale Ortega, Michele Campos and others. He was succeeded in the direction of the Academy by the German Ernesto Kirchbach and, later, by the Italian Giovanni Mochi (1876). Among his disciples we remember Ernesto Molina and Alfredo Valenzuela Puelma. After the Mochi the direction of the academy passed, with Cosimo San Martín, into the hands of Chilean painters.

Moreover, a real Chilean school of painting does not exist, since all Chilean painters were trained under the discipline or guidance of European schools, mainly Italian, French and Spanish. So much so that the most worthy representatives of Chilean painting could be incorporated into the ranks of European painters, without altering either their value or their character. They are: Raffaele Correa Múñoz, animal rights activist with a lively modern spirit; Onofrio Jarpa Labra, impressionist landscape painter, Alfredo Valenzuela, Giovanni Francesco Gonzáles Escobar, landscape painter of the Italian school; Pietro Lira, a painter of wide vision in his paintings inspired by Chilean history, who exerted a large influence on the painters of the first quarter of the century, Pietro Subercaseaux Errázuriz, who gave his works a sense of mystical resignation, expressed by means of a sober and sincere technique. We remember, among the best Italian painters, the portraitist Franco Paolantonio.

Sculpture. – Italian influence is also prevalent in Chilean sculpture. We remember the sculptors Nicanor Plaza with Chimera and Player of chueca ; Virginio Arias with Descent ; Carlo Lagarrigue with Giotto ; Rebecca Matte de Iñíguez, disciple of Bistolfi, whose vast production denotes a virile temperament and noble inspiration. Another sculptor is Ernesto Concha, who with Miseria had given signs of a promising future, cut short by an early death.


Until the early years of the last century, Chilean musical life could be considered rudimentary. The rise of a real musical activity follows the arrival of the first foreign virtuosos, including Isidora Zeger and the violinists Filomeno, Masoni and Sivori. Already in 1826 a philharmonic society was founded and soon some Italian opera companies (the famous one directed by Clorinda Pantanelli) presented themselves in Chilean theaters. If not a real national school, a group of valuable composers began to make their way ever since, and among these we should especially remember Emanuele Robles (author of the first national anthem), Giuseppe Zapiola, Eustachio and Federico Guzmán. In 1849, thanks to GM de la Barra, the Conservatory of music was opened, and numerous Italian masters contributed to its development. Yes thus begins a fervent movement of musical culture, which benefits from concerts, conferences, periodical publications, coming from the work of various organizations and musical societies. Among these entities we will mention the Sociedàd de música chilena (flourished in 1879), the Sociedad del Cuarteto (1885), the Sociedad orquestral de Chile (1912), the Sociedad Bach, which among other things has effectively contributed to the reform of the Conservatory’s studies and that of the administration of the municipal theater. Of the magazines and periodicals that have appeared in Chile from the mid-nineteenth century to today, we should mention: Semanario musical, founded and directed by Zapiola; Bellas artes (1869), El Salón (1873), Aurora Musical (1895), Arte y Vida (1911), La Orquesta (1913), Música (1920), Marsias (1928), official organ of the Sociedad Bach, whose publications are now suspended. Among the modern composers have distinguished: A. Leng, U. Allende, S. Rengifo, P. Bisquertt, D. Santa Cruz, A. Tritini, G. Reyes, S. Negretti, S. Urrutia, and especially Enrique Soro Barriga, the son of an Italian and former student of the Milan Conservatory, whose fame has surpassed the borders of Chile for numerous symphonic, chamber, vocal compositions, etc.

Chile Arts and Music