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date: 19 August 2019

Figari, Pedro free

(b Montevideo, June 29, 1861; d Montevideo, July 24, 1938).
  • Angel Kalenberg

Pedro Figari: Dancing People: Candombe (Personas bailando: Candombe), oil on board, 749.3 × 901.7 × 88.9 mm, c. 1920 (Los Angeles, County Museum of Art, Gift of Gregory Peck); image courtesy of Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Uruguayan painter, writer, lawyer and politician. He showed artistic inclinations from childhood but completed a degree in law in 1886; his appointment as a defence counsel for the poor brought him into contact with social issues that later informed his art. In the same year he studied briefly with the academy-trained Italian painter Godofredo Sommavilla (1850–1944), married and left for Europe, where he came into contact with Post-Impressionism. On his return to Uruguay he became actively involved in journalism, law and politics as well as fostering the creation of the Escuela de Bellas Artes. During the course of his life he published a number of books that reflected his broad interests in art, art education and legal matters. He was a member of the Uruguayan Parliament, president of the Ateneo of Montevideo (1901) and director of the Escuela Nacional de Artes y Oficios (1915).

In 1921 Figari moved to Buenos Aires in order to devote himself completely to painting. Working in oil on cardboard he created figurative compositions as arrangements of colour, reconstructing rather than documenting the Uruguayan scene; the geography, gaucho life, the celebrations, symbolic rituals and carnivals of the local black community. He continued to expand on this subject-matter while living in Paris from 1925 to 1933 in works painted from memory, which gained him broader recognition as a painter. Works such as Call to Prayer (1922), Burial (c. 1924; Montevideo, Mus. N.A. Visuales) and Creole Dance (c. 1925; New York, MOMA) both typify his work at its best. In 1930 he was awarded the Grand Prize in the Exposición del centenario in Montevideo and the Gold Medal at the Seville Ibero-American Exposition, and on his return to Uruguay in 1933 he was appointed artistic adviser to the Ministry of Public Education.


  • El crimen de la calle Chaná (Montevideo, 1896)
  • Plan general de la organización de la enseñanza industrial (Montevideo, 1917)
  • Arte, estética, ideal (Paris, 1920)
  • El arquitecto (Paris, 1928)
  • Historia Kiria (Paris, 1930)


  • J. L. Borges: Figari (Buenos Aires, 1930)
  • L. V. Anastasia, A. Kalenberg and J. M. Sanguinetti: El caso Almeida (Montevideo, 1976)
  • A. Kalenberg: ‘Pedro Figari: El escenario americano’, América: Mirada interior (exh. cat., Bogotá, Bib. Luis-Angel Arango, 1985)
  • Seis maestros de la pintura uruguaya (exh. cat., ed. A. Kalenberg; Buenos Aires, Mus. N. B.A., 1987), pp. 57–82
  • K. Grant: ‘The Candombe Paintings’, Lat. American Art, 3/2 (1991), pp. 21–4
  • Pedro Figari (1861–1938) (exh. cat., Paris, Pav. A., 1992)
  • G. Peluffo Linari: Historia de la pintura uruguaya: De Blanes a Figari (Montevideo, 1993)
  • I. Pini: ‘Pedro Figari: The Search for Roots’, A. Nexus, 18 (1995), pp. 64–8
  • R. Pereda: Pedro Figari (Montevideo, 1995)
  • Figari de luz de luna (exh. cat., Montevideo, Gal. Sur, 1996)