José María Eguren (1874-1942) termed “intimate museum” the area in his house where his paintings were. In 1963, the writer and diplomat Luis Alayza Paz Soldán entrusted The National Library of Peru with the visual works of José María Eguren, including paintings, watercolors, drawings and photographs. Each one of these reveals a gaze directed to the oneiric, to the playful, to naive beings and to the landscape using a delicate and subtle stroke. He made his first appearance as a painter in 1892.
José María Eguren was the only symbolist poet in Peru, which brought recognition yet at the same time incomprehension. His first book of poetry Simbólicas (Symbolics) was published in 1911. Next was La canción de las figuras (The song of the figures) in 1916, and Poesías (Poems) in 1929 which includes: Simbólicas, La canción de las figuras, Sombras (Shadows) and Rondinelas. In 1959 Motivos estéticos (Aesthetic Motifs) was published, a collection of poetic prose that included reflections on art, music, literature, the landscape and the city.
Eguren creates atmospheres of intimacy and fantasy. The warm yellows and blue tones evoke sunsets and, in some cases, spaces of intimacy, reveries and imagination. His watercolors and drawings are in small format, ranging between 16.5 by 6.3 cm and 10.5 by 6.3 cm
At night, in the room surrounded by haze,
The dreams lie;
On the old piano, with feathered hands,
they offer festive songs to the kids.
“The dreams”, Shadows, 1924
[Dream] (1910 - 1920) by José María EgurenNational Library of Peru
Reveries of the beautiful night
Disappear into forgetfulness,
Before the afternoon goddess
they begin to slumber,
And, in their unknown language, They pray.
“Amber Goddess”, Symbolics, 1911
Wanderers and walk-ons
Candor and playfulness are visible in Euguren´s watercolors and drawings: a ball, a Pierrot suit, solitary figures on the fields, scenes of games.
A tone of naivety transports us to a circus-like atmosphere of fantasy and solitude.
I go down the white path
And like the bird I sing,
for my afternoon approaching
The song of return.
“The song of return” Rondinelas, 1929.
Scenes with young women and girls on bicycles in an ample field of blurred greens and yellows. The movement is suffused with freedom. Showing his fascination for the innovations of his times, the bicycle is a symbol of modernity.
And coming softly
In afternoon tone
On her bicycle
The girl Retama
“Tempera” Rondinelas 1929.
Eguren lived near the sea, in Barranco, and also in the countryside, on the outskirts of Lima. His landscapes overflow with contemplation, silence, solitude and delicacy. Soft colors and the simplicity of the strokes create a harmony between the characters and the landscape.
Perfumed by seaweed,
the final sea.
In the shadows
“Ashes” Rondinelas, 1929.
- They tell me that you are very original, strange in your painting... I like the strange without theater.
- You will see.
Which is your favorite type of painting?
-All of them, but maybe landscape…
Interview with José María Eguren by Teófilo Castillo.
“Portraits of Artists". Variedades Magazine 1919.
Roel Mendizábal; Margarita. The visual work of José María Eguren in the National Library of Peru. Fénix: Magazine of the National Library of Peru. N.46, 2017.
Eguren, José María. Complete poems. Edition, preliminary study and notes by Ricardo Silva Santisteban. Abraham Valdelomar Library and Peruvian Academy of the Language. Lima, 2015.
"José María Eguren, a true poet". Interview with César Francisco Macera, 1940. José María Eguren, Complete works. Classics Library of Peru / 7, Banco de Crédito del Perú. Lima, 1997, p. 398.