Urteaga, Mario Alvarado (1875–1957) By Berland, Rosa
The self-taught painter Mario Alvarado Urteaga’s oeuvre includes 197 known drawings and paintings. Urteaga’s works often have a contemplative and dignified format that the Museum of Modern Art curator Lincoln Kirstein called “the poetry of the commonplace.” During the 1920s to 1930s, Urteaga had begun to move away from neo-Renaissance religious subject matter and concentrated on the gravitas depiction of the Peruvian indigenous people including scenes of daily rural and village life, as well as religious and funerary processions. The oil painting Burial of an Illustrious Man, 1936 (Entierro de veteran), now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art from the artist’s classical period (1930–1939), depicts a burial in Cajamarca of a veteran of the Chilean-Peruvian War of 1879. It is one of five known paintings of funerary processions (Entierro en Cajamarca, 1923–1934; Entierro, 1945; Entierro, 1946; and El Entierro de un hermano, date unknown) made by Urteaga. In Burial of an Illustrious Man, the artist takes traditional subject matter (a funeral procession) and reinterprets it in a classically informed style that depicts the native people of Peru with a somber dignity and traces of a social realism. Urteaga’s dignified portrayal of the indigenous people of Peru influenced generations of national painters, and his work has come to symbolize a manifestation of indigenous pride.