Detalle de Pasaje del Arroyo San Joaquín, by Cándido López, 1865

Cándido López: a tale of art and resilience

Self Portrait, by Cándido López
Oil on canvas

In 1840, during a turbulent period of time, in the heart of Buenos Aires, young Cándido López began a journey that would shape his life and leave a mark on South American art history. Joining the Argentine army at a young age, he entered the frontlines of tumultuous conflicts, including the Paraguayan War.

Invernada del Ejército Oriental, by Cándido López, 1866
Invernada del Ejército Oriental, Cándido López (1866)

Along the battle, López found solace in art. Despite the dangers, he sketched scenes from the battlefield, capturing the raw emotion and harsh realities of war with astonishing clarity. Despite losing an arm in the battle of Curupaytí, López displayed remarkable resilience, training his remaining arm, the left one, to wield the brush with precision.

What truly distinguishes López is his method of capturing war’s essence. Armed with only a sketchbook and indomitable spirit, he sketched most battles in the field, committing every detail to memory. His paintings, 58 in total, stand out for their detail and accuracy, also revealing an eye trained in photography.

Campamento argentino frente a Uruguayana, by Cándido López (1865)
Campamento argentino frente a la Uruguayana, by Cándido López (1865)

López’s innovative approach extended beyond the battlefield. Opting for a horizontal format, uncommon in oil paintings, he sought to depict simultaneous actions with meticulous detail on a single canvas. His goal was to create ninety such paintings, a testament to his unwavering commitment.

Later on, López explored other subjects, including still lifes. Some works were signed under the pseudonym “Zepol,” showcasing straightaway his versatility and creativity. Above all, I particularly like the way he painted landscapes with beautiful sunset skies, trees, rivers, smoke and fire.

Detail of Después de la Batalla de Curupaytí, by Cándido López, 1866
Después de la Batalla de Curupaytí, by Cándido López (1893)

Today, López’s legacy stands as an inspiring reminder of art’s power to transcend adversity. His life story serves as a source of hope and inspiration for artists everywhere, reminding us that creativity knows no bounds.

To conclude, if you ever plan to visit Buenos Aires, don’t miss Cándido López’s work at the National Museum of Arts in Recoleta. It’s without doubt one of the most important museums in Latin America. You can find more details here.

Part of the battle paintings by Cándido López, exhibited in the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. Buenos Aires, Argentina.






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