L’Argentina all’epoca di Guttero
The period of time covered by Alfredo Guttero’s life (Buenos Aires, 1882–1932), key representative of the Argentine artistic panorama, coincides with one of the best periods of political stability, progress and economic well-being of Argentina.
On 6 August 1890, the new president elected was Carlos Pellegrini, called “El Gringo” (“The Stranger”) because he was the son of the engineer Carlo Enrico Pellegrini, arrived from Italy in 1828. With this president the crisis of the 1880s ended (one of the many cyclic crisis that, also recently, stroke the country...). After him, other relevant presidents for the history of the nation followed, from Luis Sáenz Peña to Hipòlito Yrigoyen, until the military coup in 1930.
Because of the massive immigration from Europe – mostly from Italy, and in particular from Piedmont – the population, that at the end of the 19th century did not reach 5 million, in 1940 exceeded 15 million.
The never-ending and fertile pampas (planes), going from Rosario, on the river Rio de la Plata, to Córdoba, were reclaimed and planted with corn; the vessels bringing the product to the Italian ports, came back full of porphyry used to pave the main streets of the largest cities in rural areas. One example for all: San Francisco, in the province of Córdoba, known as the capital city of the “Pampa Gringa”, since its inhabitants were almost all from Piedmont.
The rich estancieros (land owners) went to Europe for the winter – in particular to Paris – with their families and servants, sometimes bringing with them one or two cows for the journey on the ocean liners to be sure of having milk for their children. Many of them came back to Argentina with the best French architects to plan and realize luxurious palaces, equal to the most beautiful ones in Paris, along the main avenidas of Buenos Aires, such as Santa Fe, Córdoba, Corrientes and 9 de Julio. The last one was created pulling down old houses and becoming one of the largest street in the world, in the centre of which, in the intersection with Avenida Corrientes, was built the obelisk, symbol of the city.
Next to Avenida 9 de Julio, on 25 May 1890 the construction of the Cólon Theatre started, entrusted to two Italian architects: Francesco Tamburini first and then Vittorio Meano, who built also the Congress Palace, inspired by the one in Washington, but larger. The works of the theatre lasted twenty years; it was opened on 25 May 1908 with Verdi’s Aida. Always in the same years (in 1907), the entire pavement of the Cathedral was restored with a Venice mosaic by the Italian architect Carlo Morra.
In 1904 Alfredo Guttero went to Paris too for reasons different from those that drove there the estancieros. He was only 22, but well-known and well-established in Buenos Aires as landscape painter, so that he won a scholarship to go to Europe where he stayed living and working in Paris, Germany and Italy, until 1927.
The attendance in Paris of the Ranson Academy, managed by Maurice Denis, was fundamental for his artistic training, as he managed to meet avant-garde artists among which Modigliani, Chagall, Soutine and Klee.
Once back in Buenos Aires, together with a large group of Argentine artists, in particular Emilio Pettorutti, Xul Solar, Norah Borges and Alfredo Bigatti, he abandoned the Paris style choosing to get back to order in researching free and balanced forms, far from the Academic style.