My Life, My intention was to study art from my country El Salvador

My Life

My intention was to study art from my country El Salvador. El Salvador is located in Central America. As I did my research, I found out that we belonged to the Pre-Columbian Times and from there we derived with new material.

Pre-Columbian Art and Architecture, the art and architecture of the indigenous civilizations of Mesoamerica and the Andes and of neighboring cultures before the 16th century AD. For 3000 years before the European exploration and colonization of the western hemisphere, the Native Americans of Latin America developed civilizations that showed the artistic and intellectual accomplishments of ancient China, India, Mesopotamia, and the Mediterranean world. The quality of these accomplishments is even more impressive because much of the essential technology of eastern hemisphere civilizations was unknown to the Native American.

The elaborate sculptures and intricate jade ornaments of the Maya, therefore, were accomplished by carving stone with stone. The Maya, a Native American people of Mexico and the northern part of Central America, produced intricate relief carvings (sculpture in which the figures project from a background surface). Maya sculpture frequently depicted rulers and gave dates and other information about these rulers. Sculpture and other art forms were also used to record important events and to portray deities and their activities. Pre-Columbian cultures are grouped according to general geographic area. The Mesoamerican Area, a major cultural region, includes the present countries of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Peru and Bolivia make up the Central Andean Area, the other major cultural region. Constituting the Intermediate Area are the lower Central America and the northern South American nations of Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador. The Peripheral Area comprises the rest of South America, as well as the Caribbean islands. Although these areas were initially regarded as separate cultural entities, recent archaeological research has indicated substantial cultural relation rather than isolation. To distinguish the major characteristics of pre-Columbian civilizations, three general chronological divisions were created. The Pre-Classic, or Formative, period (circa 1500 BC-circa AD300),the Classic, period (circa 300-circa 900),and the Post-Classic period (circa 900-1540). The Pre-Classic period was an age of experimentation and innovation, the achievements of which were expanded and refined by later civilizations. In this early period the Americas were primarily isolated into chiefdoms and small kingdoms that were largely independent of one another in their cultural development. During the Classic period complex empires developed. Their rulers were often priests, rather than the warrior-priests who were the principal administrators of Post-Classic civilizations, and cultures were more readily disseminated or assimilated. The Post-Classic period was characterized by frequent wars resulting from the socioeconomic pressures of increased population and technological development. Pre-Columbian civilizations were primarily agricultural, with corn being developed as the dietary staple in Mesoamerica, and the potato in Andean Peru and Bolivia. Until the relative secularism of the Post-Classic period, religion was also central to the formulation and development of pre-Columbian American culture. Religious ideas and rituals, however, were largely determined by the concerns of agricultural societies for crop fertility. Much pre-Columbian art and architecture, therefore, is involved with astronomy, which helped the Native Americans determine appropriate times for planting and times for harvesting. Two types of urban design were developed. One was the ceremonial center, a complex of structures primarily consisting of religious and administrative buildings constructed around plazas, but without common dwellings or streets. It is conjectured that only the secular and religious rulers and their courts lived in these centers, while the majority of the population resided on small farms in a surrounding suburban zone. The other type, true cities, had streets organizing residences of rich and poor, as well as plaza-oriented temples and administrative buildings. Recent mapping projects at sites in Mesoamerica have shown that what were once thought to be ceremonial centers had resident populations of commoners and were more like true cities. Both ceremonial complexes and true cities served as centers for religion, government, and commerce. Important for supplying necessities and luxuries, commerce also provided the routes for transmitting ideas, technology and art forms and motifs. Outstanding in pre-Columbian artistic development were architecture, sculpture, painting, and decorative arts such as pottery, metalwork, and textiles. The earliest pre-Columbian buildings were constructed from wood, bundled reeds, fiber matting or thatch, and other perishable materials. A permanent, monumental architecture using stone or adobe (sun-dried brick) was developed principally in Mesoamerica and the Central Andean Area. Pre-Columbian architectural technology was rudimentary. Most structures were built with the post-and-lintel system, although the Chavín of Peru and the Maya of Mesoamerica employed the false arch, in which one stone was extended above another to form an arch like shape. Stone rather than metal tools were used, and human labor rather than machines was used for transporting and building such characteristic structures as pyramids, palaces, tombs, and platform temples (built on earth platforms). The pre-Columbian pyramid was once regarded as different from its Egyptian counterpart because it was intended not as a burial structure but as the residence of a deity. Recent excavations, however, increasingly indicate that tombs were sometimes incorporated into pyramids. Pictographs in Mesoamerican codices (screen-fold books of paper, produced from fibers or the bark of various plants, or deerskin) illustrate that pyramids were also used for military defense. The Aztec symbol for conquest was a burning pyramid of which the calli, or house of the god (the temple atop the pyramid), had been toppled by the conqueror. In order to make them more monumental or reflect favorably on the current ruler, many Mesoamerican pyramids were periodically rebuilt over a preexisting structure. The majority of extant pre-Columbian sculptures are clay figurines and effigy pots. Stone sculpture is found primarily in Mesoamerica and only occasionally in the Central Andean and Intermediate areas, regions in which the use of metal was earlier and more extensive. Although metalworking technology was highly sophisticated, carving was done with stone rather than metal tools. Teotihuacán in Mexico had buildings covered on both the interior and exterior with a thick plaster that was painted with either decorative patterns or narrative scenes. At the Mexican sites of Bonampak and Chichén Itzá, the Maya and Maya-Toltec painted their temple interiors with realistic frescoes that depict historical events. Although primarily found in Mesoamerica, architectural painting has been discovered in the Intermediate Area in the geometrically patterned underground tombs at Tierradentro in Colombia and the mythological murals at Panamarca in Peru. Also in Peru, Moche effigy pots of architectural structures indicate that the exteriors of buildings were often boldly painted with symbolic motifs. The refined drawing abilities of the Maya, Mixtec, and Aztec peoples are demonstrated in their picture or pictographic writing preserved in the codices. Most Post-Classic codices were destroyed during the 16th century by Spanish missionaries who saw them as instruments of evil. Among the few preserved were the Maya codices (now in Dresden, Paris, and Madrid), the Codex Zouche-Nuttall of the Mixtec (now in the British Museum, London), and some Aztec works. Another type of pre-Columbian painting was the decoration of pottery. Maya, Moche, and Peruvian Nazca ceramics provide many of the finest examples of design and technique. Many objects recovered from pre-Columbian sites are associated with burial offerings and are utilitarian or ceremonial rather than decorative in function. Despite the lack of many technological advantages in their manufacture, these objects were equal in design and execution to any of the finest examples of preindustrial art in any part of the world. Possibly first developed in Colombia or Ecuador, pottery succeeded baskets and gourds as containers. Throughout the entire pre-Columbian world, pottery became the most common surviving artifact. Both hand-modeled and molded pots and clay objects were made. Decoration involved incising designs, carving or molding reliefs, and employing various techniques of painting and polishing. Although polychromed ceramics were produced, most pottery was painted with one or two colors or left unpainted. From its probable origins in the northern Central Andean Area about 700 BC, metalworking spread to the Intermediate Area and finally was transmitted to Mesoamerica about AD1000. Because of European greed for gold and silver, most unburied or unhidden objects of these materials were melted down by the Spanish conquerors and exported to Spain as ingots. Although iron and steel were unknown, copper was widely worked and the alloying of bronze was discovered about AD1000. Tumbaga, an alloy of copper and gold, was employed in Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador. Many techniques were used for working metal, including the lost-wax process, soldering, and repoussé or embossing. Metalwork was frequently engraved, gilded, or inlaid with various stones and shells.

Because of the extremely dry climate of the Peruvian coast, this is the only pre-Columbian region where major examples of early textiles have survived. Buried in desert tombs, especially in the Paracas Peninsula, 2500-year-old textiles have been perfectly preserved, as they were in the arid climate of ancient Egypt. Cotton was the most common fiber used for weaving cloth, although in the Central Andean Area llama, alpaca, and vicuña wool was also used. These materials were often colored with mineral and vegetable dyes. Besides woven patterns and images, textiles designs were achieved through painting, stamping, embroidering, and appliqué. In Post-Classic Mesoamerica and Peru, fabric was also made of feathers.

In El Salvador we have many archeological sites and religious sculpture which derive from its Pre-Colombian past. The first artist is El Salvador were Pedro Angel Espinoza, Miguel Ortiz Villacorta and Carlos Alberto Imery. “Espinoza became a chronicler of the country’s native people and countryside, rendered in his work with strong, thick stokes.” (Sullivan, 62). Ortiz was more into painting portraits of people and landscapes. Imery was the one that made a greates impact in El Salvador because he created the Escuela de Dibujo y Pintura (The school of Drawing and Painting). “The 1930’s were dramatic years in El Salvador’s history, remembered primarily for the peasant uprising of 1932 under the legendary Agustin Farabundo Marti. There were grave consequences when the military responded by executing the rebel leader and killing thirty thousand people in a massacre which became known as ’La Matanza’.” (Sullican,62). One of the paintings that I found very interesting was a painting done by Roberto Galicia. He was known for his creation of Mayan subjects and his white-on-white paintings of layered papers in dramatic chiaroscuro. “Affected by the country’s instability and suffering, in 1984 he painted Bandera (Flag), in which the Salvadorian flag appears twisted, almost tortured, and precariously held up by a thin knotted pole.

I have learned more about my culture because of this paper. I know that next time I go back to my country I will go visit the museums.



Barnitz,Jaqueline. Twentieth-Century Art of Latin America. ( Texas, University of Texas Press, 2001 ).

Miller, Mary Ellen. The Art of Mesoamerica from Olmec to Aztec. ( London, Thames & Hudson, 2001 ) .

Sullivan,Edward J. Latin American Art in the Twentieth Century. ( London, Phaidon Press, 1996 ) .

Note: These books I used for information that is in the beginning of my paper, the history of the pre-Columbian art.


Note: I used these websites to take pictures of the art that I have given you.

Other Reference: I also got reference from my cousin in El Salvador, he lives over there so he got the education of my country, unlike me.



El Salvador

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