Francisco Oller was the first Puerto Rican to travel to Europe to study painting. He played a role in the foundation of the Impressionist movement in France and contributed to bringing this pictorial current to Spain. In fact, his friendship with the impressionist artists Paul Cézanne and Camille Pissarro is widely known, and it is even presumed that he came to portray members of their family in some of his works. His contact with the old continent was decisive in the development of his style, which is reflected in the way he depicts the reality of Puerto Rico;its illustrious men, landscape and tropical fruits. Oller was a great innovator, daring to change his style and palette as a means to express his inspiration with unrestrained freedom. After his stay in France, he decided to return to his country and focus his talents and efforts towards elevating the depictions of the scenery that were part of daily life on the Island. Through his initiative, Oller managed to transform the ordinary into a monumental painting, using as resources a pasty pigment and a short brushstroke to exalt reality. In his work, we find various elements of the realistic and impressionistic schools; a clear example of his interest in capturing his surroundings with superlative quality. It was this ingenious combination of the two artistic movements that earned him a distinction among his peers in Latin America. Puerto Rican art of the late 19th century achieved its highest expression in the work of Francisco Oller y Cestero.

Paisajes con Lavandera (1896) by Francisco Oller y CesteroInstituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña

This scene was made during one of Oller’s visits to France. Throughout this work, Oller plays with a wide range of greens in the vegetation and the reds in the roofing of the house; a palette brought forth by the sheer natural light that bathes the scene he has chosen to depict.

Capeadora a Caballo (1852) by Francisco Oller y CesteroInstituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña

The decision behind the artist’s chosen theme was heavily influenced by Oller’s stay in Madrid, Spain. The work shows a woman riding horseback while waving a red cape in order to provoke a bull.

Paisaje de Puerto Rico (1912) by Francisco Oller y CesteroInstituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña

In this landscape, Oller depicts the topography of the rural countryside of the Island through a painting peppered with some interesting details like the little house in the background and the trails that lead to the top of the hill, making for a rich composition.

Bodegón de vino, piña y mangó (1870) by Francisco Oller y CesteroInstituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña

Oller executes an exquisite still-life that pays particular attention to detail. In this work, we can see Oller’s mastery of the genre; from the precision with which he depicts the chunks of the skin of the pineapple as they lay on the white table cloth, to the shadow of the bottle of wine.

Bodegón de jarra de agua, mangoes y mamey (1870) by Francisco Oller y CesteroInstituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña

It’s Oller’s skillful use of the light that which makes the texture of the fruit stand out in this piece. Among the fruit chosen for this composition is the Mamey, a fruit native to the New World, which the artist shows cut into slices along with its skin.

Retrato de Herminio Díaz Navarro by Francisco Oller y CesteroInstituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña

This is an unfinished work by Oller which consists of a simple schematic drawing of the subject. The importance of this work befalls on the opportunity it offers to study the creative process of the artist.

Don Manuel Saldaña by Francisco Oller y CesteroInstituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña

The portrait’s subject, Don Manuel, is depicted in a seating position with a mountainous landscape in the background, along with the inclusion of two paintings which add dimension to the artwork.

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