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Laurens Dhaenens. He described his family history, his institutional achievements and his work as a diplomat in diverse European capitals. He did not elaborate to any great extent on his artistic practice.

The development of his art is woven into these other dominant narratives. As a result, only two paintings are mentioned. The same is true of his activity as a critic. He referred to his seminal article Apuntes sobre el arte en Buenos Aires. Moreover, when he addressed his role as a correspondent for El Diario , he accentuated the financial benefit and the political conflict that obliged him to switch from one newspaper to another, rather than the socio-cultural importance of his texts.

The image that the autobiographical document projects is that of a cosmopolitan artist with almost no oeuvre, but who had an important role in the creation of the cultural field in Buenos Aires. Today, Schiaffino is considered as the first historiographer of Argentine art, [4] one of the most modern painters of his generation, [5] an urbanist [6] and a vital figure in the incipient art market, exhibition circuits and the formation of private and public collections at the turn of the century.

Stretching the scope of his artistic work inevitably leads to problems of classification, an issue that surfaces implicitly and explicitly in many studies on the artist. Instead, it calls for an umbrella concept that positions him in the cultural field, but that does not omit the diversity of his practices or simplify his role in the creation of the national art scene.

They outline the figure of the mediator, listing three general characteristics:. Firstly, cultural mediators undertake a variety of discursive transfer techniques. They are multilingual authors, self-translators, or translators who translate, adapt, plagiarize, summarize, censor, manipulate, etc.

They may have corresponded with colleagues informal networks or may have founded or taken an active part in the editorial boards of magazines and periodicals, in salons, in literary and artistic associations, in art and music academies, in artists' workshops, in reading circles etc. The authors thus situate the activities of cultural mediators in the space between disciplines, languages and cultures and within intricate international networks.

In the case of Schiaffino, this relates to the combination of an art practice, literary, journalistic and historiographical activities, and the work and responsibilities of a museum director, an exhibition organiser and a member of various associations and commissions. As the autobiography emphasises, he thereby travelled widely and, in line with his contemporaries, found in the cultural history of Europe models that he wanted to transfer to his home country in order to establish an artistic field that was both modern and national.

In a society where between and more than 4,, immigrants arrived, it does not clarify the complex position of cultural mediators.

His activities during his early European stay illustrate this: between and , Schiaffino studied fine arts at diverse academies in Venice and Paris, participated in exhibitions in Europe and Buenos Aires, travelled widely, worked as a correspondent for Buenos Aires newspapers and, as he pointed out in his autobiography, developed himself as a connoisseur of ancient European art for Argentine collectors.

In brief, Schiaffino managed to be absent and present in his home country at the same time, using strategically diverse media. The study of cultural mediators in art history poses diverse methodological problems.

Consequently, he also argues to leave behind binary models and traditional comparative research methods, for these fail to clarify the significance of places, objects, traditions, etc. The image of a fluid reality that the study of cultural transfers discloses paradoxically also represents the state of the concept. Since the eighties, the concept itself travels and is transformed between disciplines. A key figure of the spatial turn in art history, DaCosta Kaufmann devotes a large part of his work to the re-examination of the relationship between time and space in the history of art.

In particular, he probes into the significance of places in historiographies, uncovering what could be understood as a geography of art. Yet, he prefers the term a geohistory of art , evoking the tradition of la geographie humaine.

In line with this school of thought, DaCosta Kaufmann complements the spatial focus with considerable attention for human agency and historicity. From this perspective, DaCosta Kaufmann revisits cultural phenomena in diverse parts of the world, looking into transfer theories and concepts such as diffusionism, acculturation, transculturation, mestizaje and syncretism.

Unveiling a variety of cultural transfers, he pointed out the limitations of concepts to capture their complexity, including that of the notion of cultural transfer itself. This study is grounded on the geohistorical model. In particular, it analyses how the condition of travelling in Europe manifests itself in his texts. During the last two decades of the nineteenth century, the literary field in Buenos Aires experienced important transformations.

Alejandra Laera describes this moment as. Incipient activities of writing about art and the foundation of visual art publications formed part of these literary changes. In a society where there was no institutionalised art scene, printed text constituted a vital platform to discuss the construction and conception of a national art.

The first magazine exclusively devoted to fine arts was El arte en el Plata. Schiaffino debuted in this field as a reporter and a translator. This was the beginning of a long-term collaboration and a shift in his focus. Schiaffino moved away from common political and cultural facts and events and began to focus on art, nevertheless maintaining his broad socio-political perspective.

In these early texts, the artworks often serve to address greater issues. Schiaffino discourse reached an early culmination point in a series of articles, published in September in El Diario , under the title Apuntes sobre el arte en Buenos Aires.

This corpus of texts is a critical analysis of the cultural condition of the capital and contains the first historiography of art in Argentina. In brief, it demanded a kind of government protection and responsibility for the arts that went beyond awarding grants to study in Europe: the state had to found a public gallery, alter the high import taxes on art and involve artists in the process of nation building by commissioning monuments, decorations and artworks.

Shortly after publishing the Apuntes , Schiaffino received a scholarship to study art in Europe. In , he travelled to Venice where he enrolled at the Royal Academy. In search of a more modern environment, he moved to Paris one year later to study with Raphael Collin and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. All texts were written from Europe, except five that were published during a temporary stay in Buenos Aires in Schiaffino did not direct himself to one specific subject, but wrote about the world at large.

It contains numerous articles, correspondences often including a draft of the letter he wrote , notebooks, drafts of his books, etc. The archive also contains, besides his published work, countless unfinished and unpublished manuscripts. Even more, by considering the editing of a book based on his travel reports, Schiaffino enrolled in a then emerging tradition of travel literature.

This textual geography locates Schiaffino on and outside a conventional art trail. Visiting the palaces of Genoa, the international exhibition in Turin, searching for Rubens in Antwerp and, as described in correspondence, spending summers painting in Giverny, he followed the footsteps of a modern artist-to-be. For example, though few artists had by then received a government grant, his choice to go to Venice and later to Paris reflected the Argentine debate on whether Paris, the centre of modernity, or Italy, the centre of art historic tradition, offered the right context to develop a national modern art.

Conscious of his movement, Schiaffino expounded his ideas about travel and tourism throughout the corpus of texts, including the personal struggle the condition of travel implied. As such, the author opposed the idea of tourism that guide books were spreading. In his description of places associated with traditional tourism, this vision expressed itself by incorporating historical references and reflecting on aesthetics and quotidian phenomena. As a result, his experiences often appear as literary ones; crossing landscapes, he moves through books.

In his reportage of his trip to the Swiss Alps he wrote:. Moreover, the snow-capped mountains reminded him of the fumigation procedures with chlorinated lime that were being used to disinfect the streets of Italy.

Confronted with the sublime landscape, he vividly narrated the walk, expressing the marvellous and the ominous character of the experience. In this part of the text, time slows down. Beside the rapid spreading of diseases through new infrastructures, Schiaffino also viewed modern profit-driven industries as a threat to humanity. The omnipresence of hotels and cableways had driven wildlife away and destroyed the pristine natural landscape. Disillusioned, the author lamented that one could only see antelopes through paid telescopes.

He adapted himself to —and translated — the speed of the telegraph, train travel and temporary stays in hotels. From this perspective, the Apuntes is a key-work. The text sketches recent socio-cultural transformations in Argentina, shifting between a macro and micro level —going from portraying the city to analysing the taste of its wealthy inhabitants.

He unveiled the materialistic nature of progress as it was being imposed and the lack of taste it engendered among the public. Reading interior decorations as a material and cultural expression of their owners, Schiaffino translated Poe's essay into the reality of Buenos Aires. In his subsequent articles he aimed to further confirm these positions, repeatedly displaying his knowledge of European art history and contemporary art practice.

Moreover, though less explicit, he also sought to shed light on his artistic activity. This quote, however subtle it was, anticipated the place he would grant himself in following versions of this essay. This kind of explicit and implicit positioning reappears in his European texts, but as part of a complex dynamic of identity negotiation. In these explorations, the authors expressed themselves with great liberty, impartiality and continual awareness of the gaze of the reader.

The traveller-reporter thereby took on various roles, experimenting with diverse literary models. However smooth Schiaffino seems to move between these topoi, in almost every text, signs of a struggle surface.

A good example is his discovery of Venice as a city with streets —and not just water as he had previously believed. In her introductory essay of Cuadros de viaje , Malosetti Costa points out how Argentine artists travelling to the Old Continent prepared: they knew Europe before experiencing Europe. Hence going to Europe signified a struggle with personal expectations and idealisations that made artists rethink their image of Europe and of themselves.

In continuation with his previous articles, he wrote as one well-informed, citing art historical sources and naming numerous artists and artworks. The expert thus remained an expert. Nevertheless, Europe did present a challenge. On the Old Continent , Schiaffino found himself in a safe haven: the subjects of his texts had either already died, or would never be able to read his words because they only appeared in Buenos Aires. However, this did not prevent him from feeling insecure and expressing his doubts.

In some of his articles, he explicitly put his own words into perspective. As such, he began his salon critique of , apologising for writing at the closure of the exhibition:. Seeking to promote a cultural field in Buenos Aires, Schiaffino wrote for a particular context.

He could however write about art and reflect about art criticism. Even before going to Europe, in his early articles, Schiaffino sporadically lined up the characteristics of what he considered good art criticism. In each of these texts Schiaffino entered into a polemic with other critics. Analysing their references, concepts and terminology, he pointed out their errors and mistakes, underlining the importance of the knowledge of art history in order to write about art.

His reviews of artists, artworks, exhibitions and salons often blend with his impression of landscapes, cities, traditions and travel. The text was a sequel to an article he wrote on 5 May and that gives a general impression of the salon, the vernissage and some scandals preceding it. This fragmentation generates a panoramic view, yet at the expense of descriptions of artworks that are omnipresent in his other texts.

Disillusioned by the selection of artworks, Schiaffino openly criticised the organiser, Rochefort, and embarked upon a reflection on judgment, taste and other questions of aesthetics.


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