A vast panorama of Argentinean art, including works by its greatest representativesBrowse collection ›
European art from centuries XII to XIX
Argentinian art from XIX century
International art from the XX century
Argentinian art from the XX century
Curators: Laura Malosetti Costa and Carolina Vanegas Carrasco.
From Sept. 29, 2023 to Feb. 4, 2024
Pabellón de exhibiciones temporarias | Exposición "Eduardo Sívori. Artista moderno entre París y Buenos Aires".
180 works on display
Curator: Laura Malosetti Costa y Carolina Vanegas Carrasco
Download press kit
At the close of the 19 th century, Eduardo Sívori was one of the influential figures
who began to give shape to Argentina’s cultural sphere by promoting groups,
competitive shows, salons, educational spaces and institutions which include the
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes itself.
Like many of his colleagues from the ‘80s generation, he was also the author of a
vast body of singular works, some of which were produced during his stay in Paris,
one of the locations par excellence for artistic education for creators at that time.
Sívori’s formal and thematic repertoire saw the incorporation of a naturalistic style
while in the French capital, an influence that would give rise to his most famous
painting, El despertar de la criada Waking of the Servant, exhibited at the
Sociedad Estímulo [Society to Promote the Fine Arts] in Buenos Aires, in 1887. It
shows a feminine body, elaborated without the artifices of embellishment usually
employed for the nude genre during that era. Its presentation in Argentina was
interpreted as an irreverent gesture on the artist’s part, as a provocation and as a
novelty. The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes has had the honor of proudly
counting this painting, an emblem of local production, as part of its patrimony since 1936.
The works gathered together in this exhibition cover the entire length and breadth
of Eduardo Sívori’s career. There are landscapes that he made early on, paintings
featuring naturalism and social critique from his Parisian period, numerous
representations of Argentina’s pampa—a motif he worked with tenaciously—and
the portraits he dedicated to those closest to him. Another section of the show
proposes to highlight role as an educator for the next generation—which held him
in high esteem and rendered homage to him after his death—and his activity as a
pioneer in the revitalization of national art with the introduction of techniques that
were absent then in our country’s production.
"Eduardo Sívori. A Modern Artist Between Paris and Buenos Aires" is the result of exhaustive research carried out by an interdisciplinary team coordinated by the project’s curators, Laura Malosetti Costa and Carolina Vanegas Carrasco. Their
investigation, committed to shedding light on the narratives and events involved in
founding an incipient national modern art, has enabled the Museo Nacional de
Bellas Artes to present this Eduardo Sívori retrospective to the public, the first to
take place in Argentina following the posthumous show dedicated to the artist in
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
This exhibition brings together the graphic and pictorial work produced by Eduardo
Sívori (Buenos Aires, 1847-1918), a leading figure in Argentina’s early modern
generation at the close of the 19 th century. Since the posthumous show organized
by his disciple Mario Canale and the Comisión Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1919,
there has been no retrospective dedicated to this outstanding cultural actor, who is
known only for a handful of great paintings, such as El despertar de la criada
[Waking of the Servant], which instigated Buenos Aires’ first art scandal in 1887.
Among the founding creators of his time, Sívori was the one who developed the
broadest and most sustained work, not only in the earliest artists’ group, the
Sociedad Estímulo de Bellas Artes [Society to Promote the Fine Arts], but in all of
the institutions that were to follow in the period between the centuries: academy,
museum and salon (competitive show). He was the oldest of the group (a journalist characterized him as “the oldest of the young”), and in the early 1870s, the only
one who had been to Europe. When he returned, he shared ideas underlying French modernity in art and open-air painting with his young friends. Of them all,
he was also the most dedicated and professional in his practice. Although he had
no need to sell paintings in order to maintain himself economically, he still sent
works to all of the salons during his stay in Paris, and until the year of his death, to
all of the salons in Argentina.
Bringing Eduardo Sívori’s work together and studying the whole also implies
recognizing an entire generation of artists and intellectuals who put the privileges
of their social class, talent and knowledge at the service of the common good and
of extending the arts for the benefit of future generations.
Laura Malosetti Costa and Carolina Vanegas Carrasco
On his father’s side, Eduardo Sívori pertained to a family of immigrants from
Genoa who were importers and tradespeople. His mother was the daughter of
Coronel Francisco Crespo, who had been active in the military since the English
invasions and participated in countless battles during the struggle for
independence in addition to also serving, late in his life, as an aide to Juan Manuel
All three Sívori brothers, Eduardo, Alejandro and Carlos, were active protagonists
in the inaugural efforts to construct an artistic avant-garde movement in Buenos
Aires. Along with other young artists and writers, they founded a group in 1876 that they named Sociedad Estímulo de Bellas Artes [Society to Promote the Fine Arts], whose first meetings were held in the family warehouse. The Sívori family had commercial connections with the Schiaffino family of tradespeople and bankers, who had also come from Genoa. The young Eduardo Schiaffino (1858-1935) was another of the decisive figures involved in constructing a modern art scene in Buenos Aires.
The first landscape sketches by Sívori’s hand known to us are dated just after his
first trip to Europe, done during excursions he used to organize to the Bosques de
Palermo [Palermo Woods], which from then on received mention in the press as
“the Fontainebleau for Argentinean artists”.
His small notebooks reveal an interest in composing both contemporary and
foundational historical scenes, which for the most part he never managed to carry
During his second trip to Europe (1883-1891), Eduardo Sívori undertook formal
studies in painting at the Académie Colarossi in Paris. There, he began to adopt a
naturalistic style and themes, which at that time were vying with derivations of
impressionism in the realm of new tendencies at the Salon des Artistes Français,
known as the Salon de Paris. He participated in this grand international showcase
from 1887 until his return to Argentina in 1891, and works of his were accepted
every year. If examined as a group, a particular interest in the world of lower class
working women in the modern city can be perceived. They feature women
employees, servants and singers from the city’s suburbs. These works exude a
vague atmosphere that suggests dark networks of prostitution in the case of young
His most radical painting is, without a doubt, El despertar de la criada [Waking of
the Servant], a striking nude of a lower class woman with calloused feet, strong,
rounded forms and a darkish tone to her skin. Sívori’s painting met with reactions
of aversion due to the subject matter, even to the point of frank criticism for
“exposing the public” to such ugliness, but at the same time, it is the work that
firmly established him as a painter.
Exhibited in this section are the technical studies, carried out for the first time, of "El despertar de la criada", which reveal interesting iconographic decisions and details of the pictorial technique used by an artist working in oils with glazing, or thin layers of translucent color, similar to watercolor technique. On occasions, he expressly indicated that his works should never be varnished.
Throughout his life, Eduardo Sívori sought to construct a pampa landscape that
would be imposing, unique and yet modern at the same time. He did numerous
landscape studies in which figures are practically absent, and in others, scenes of
country life, trips and rural labors are minimized by the immensity of the horizon.
This section also highlights a group of pieces from the Museo Provincial de Bellas
Artes Emilio Pettoruti, which seems to have emerged from the exchange between
Sívori and the French writer and rancher Godofredo Daireaux (1849-1916),
evidencing their intellectual convergence in the construction and representation of
modern agricultural production.
Sívori was looking for the sublime in the pampa, as he stated in a newspaper
article in 1896. With this objective, he painted many images of the pampa in the
heat of “the landscape dispute” that was taking place in the Ateneo in Buenos
Aires, which boiled down to Eduardo Schiaffino’s opposition to the nostalgic and
aesthetic view held by poets, who were represented by Rafael Obligado. There can
be no doubt that Sívori achieved his goal in the immense, bare horizons in many of
his oil paintings, but above all, in the small format works in monochromatic inks or
watercolors, in which he worked with rough areas of color, exploring the effects of
light on the plains.
Portraits: Networks and Emotional Bonds
Although he lamented more than once that for Argentinean painters the only
profitable occupation was to paint portraits—and at some point also declared that
he considered the genre to be no more than a means of earning a living in a city
that had no appreciation for art—some of Eduardo Sívori’s most famous and quite
rightly esteemed works are, precisely, portraits.
He received numerous commissions over the course of his lifetime for portraits of
national dignitaries, businessmen or families, but the most notable and handsome
of these works are generally the ones he did of his relatives and closest friends.
This section is accordingly organized as a network of emotional bonds.
Eduardo Sívori was a maestro who was greatly loved and admired by subsequent
generations of students. He dedicated his life not only to art practice, but also to
teaching, and he had a crucial hand in establishing and sustaining art-related
institutions in Argentina. In addition to founding the Sociedad Estímulo de Bellas
Artes [Society to Promote the Fine Arts], he participated in organizing exhibitions at the Ateneo and played a key part in the creation of the Museo Nacional de Bellas
Artes, the nationalization of the Academia de Bellas Artes and the realization of
editions of the Salón Nacional.
He did not have children, but he did have any number of protégés and disciples
who professed true devotion to him. Mario Canale is an outstanding example of the
latter, and he inherited and gathered together his works and archive material. He
also organized the posthumous exhibition in 1919 and a vast program of homages,
including a popular subscription destined to erecting a monument in the maestro’s
honor, found today in the museum that bears his name [Museo de Artes Plásticas
Eduardo Sívori]. Thanks to the Canale archive, acquired by Fundación Espigas in
2003, the collection of documents related to Eduardo Sívori has been conserved to
reach the present day, enabling us to assemble here the life and work of this
pioneer of art in Argentina.
In this series of gouaches stripped of color, Sívori attained a high degree of
abstraction in his representation of the pampa prairies, managing to capture the
trait of the sublime in that immensity. Nevertheless, far from depicting landscapes
barren of any life, these plains offer a meticulously detailed description of situations
that can be classified as “custom paintings”, as revealed by their titles. In these
works, Sívori offers a view that is deeply involved with this territory and its
inhabitants, which must have been informed by the intellectual exchange with his
friend Godofredo Daireaux.
Within his production, Sívori assigned a significant place to self-portraits, done in
photography as well as painting, works in which the passing of time can be
observed in his face. This profusion of paintings and photographs may well indicate
that he was aware of the importance of his legacy for the field of art in Argentina,
where he was a “living legend” of sorts.
One of his self-portraits from 1910 along with another portrait of our artist, painted
by Cesáreo Bernaldo de Quirós, were both awarded gold medals at the Panama-
Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, California in 1915.
In the latest portrait known to us, Sívori represents himself in profile, on the basis
of a photograph, as an apparition suspended in a whirlwind of strokes that mix in
with his beard. Lit from the front, his face shares the same pictorial quality as the
Eduardo Sívori was a pioneer who introduced printmaking techniques—etching in
particular—into the universe of fine arts in Argentina, and included them in art education programs. His disciple Mario Canale was an active promoter of these
techniques in his activity as a journalist and director of different magazines: first,
Athinae, during his student days at the Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes, and
later, El Grabado, in his role as founder of the Sociedad de Grabadores
[Printmakers’ Society]. In the first issue of the latter periodical—which had only
three issues, between January and March of 1916—an entire manifesto can be
read at the foot of a portrait Canale made of Sívori in a woodcut print, regarding the important role they imagined print exhibitions would play in transforming and
decentralizing artistic taste: “There will be a demand from the people for these
exhibitions, appealing to our center [the Sociedad de Grabadores], in a reversal of