In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section The Development of Painting in Peru, 1520–1820

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Exhibition Catalogues
  • Historiography
  • Primary Textual Sources
  • Andean Themes
  • Portraiture
  • Art in Society
  • Techniques and Materials
  • Mural Painting
  • Art of the Independence Period

Latin American Studies The Development of Painting in Peru, 1520–1820
Maya Stanfield-Mazzi
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 19 December 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0028


The artistic traditions of Peru were transformed after the Spanish conquest of the region beginning in 1532. The Incas and previous cultures had painted on textiles, ceramics, and wood and had created mural paintings. But soon after the establishment of the viceroyalty of Peru in 1542, Spanish colonizers, often friars sent to Peru to convert native peoples to Christianity, introduced the art of using oil paints on canvas. By the end of the 16th century, oil and mural paintings began to be employed by both immigrant and native Andean artists to communicate the central tenets of Christianity. By the middle of the following century, local painting industries had been established in the major colonial centers of Cusco, Potosí, Quito, Santa Fe de Bogotá, and Lima. Artists produced thousands of works for local audiences, often using imported prints as models but precluding the need for imported paintings. The themes were largely Christian, but artists also painted portraits and small fruit and flower scenes. Painting in Peru continued robustly until the movements toward independence from Spain that began in 1809. Scholarship on colonial Peruvian painting has tended toward formal and iconographic studies in which works are considered in light of their mixed cultural heritage. Works with ostensibly Christian themes are examined for traces of traditional Andean religious beliefs, for example, and the unique pictorial styles that developed in centers such as Cusco are described as hybrids of the Andean and Spanish traditions. Other perspectives consider Peruvian painting within its colonial social context, looking for evidence of creative agency on the part of indigenous artists. A new vein of research considers the techniques and materials used by Andean painters.

General Overviews

Overviews of Peruvian painting in English are to be found mainly within larger surveys of colonial (also called viceregal) Latin American art. Wide-ranging surveys in print include Bailey 2005 and Donahue-Wallace 2008, and Leibsohn and Mundy 2005 is a useful web resource. Gutiérrez Haces and Brown 2008 is available in both Spanish and English. More geographically focused works have been published in Spanish. Peru’s Banco de Crédito has published several volumes related to colonial painting of Peru. Not related to specific exhibitions, the volumes include chapters by experts on the art and history of colonial Peru. For example, Bernales Ballesteros and Nieri Galindo 1989 is an important survey of colonial Peruvian painting, and Mujica Pinilla, et al. 2002–2003 presents the panorama of baroque art in colonial Peru. Gutiérrez 1995 covers painting from various parts of the viceroyalty of Peru.

  • Bailey, Gauvin A. Art of Colonial Latin America. London: Phaidon, 2005.

    A concise survey of the art and architecture of all of colonial Latin America, including Brazil, with brief treatment of important paintings from colonial Peru. Arranged by theme rather than geographical area, allowing for connections across continents.

  • Bernales Ballesteros, Jorge, and Luis Nieri Galindo. Pintura en el virreinato del Perú. Colección Arte y Tesoros del Perú. Lima, Peru: Banco de Crédito del Perú, 1989.

    A survey in Spanish of colonial painting from Peru. Mainly covers works in Lima but includes some from Cusco, Cajamarca, and Huánuco. Includes a catalogue of 170 works that were restored by the Banco de Crédito in 1985.

  • Donahue-Wallace, Kelly. Art and Architecture of Viceregal Latin America, 1521–1821. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2008.

    A contextual survey of the arts of colonial Spanish America. Organized chronologically and by medium, chapters on painting cover that of both Peru and New Spain (Mexico). Includes useful excerpts from primary sources but few color illustrations.

  • Gutiérrez Haces, Juana, and Jonathan Brown. Pintura de los reinos: Identidades compartidas: Territorios del mundo hispánico, siglos XVI–XVIII. Mexico City: Fomento Cultural Banamex, 2008.

    A massive survey available in Spanish and English of painting from various Spanish colonial territories, including the viceroyalty of Peru. Chapters by Luis Eduardo Wuffarden and Marta Penhos consider colonial Peruvian painting in terms of style. Also available in English (Painting of the Kingdoms: Shared Identities: Territories of the Spanish Monarchy, 16th–18th Centuries).

  • Gutiérrez, Ramón, ed. Pintura, escultura y artes útiles en Iberoamérica, 1500–1825. Manuales Arte Cátedra. Madrid: Cátedra, 1995.

    A compact volume with sections by different scholars on painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from various Spanish colonial territories, including the viceroyalty of Peru. Sections on painting cover modern-day Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Chile. Illustrated in black and white.

  • Leibsohn, Dana, and Mundy, Barbara. Vistas: Visual Culture in Spanish America, 1520–1820. 2005.

    A website dedicated to introducing the colonial arts of Latin America to a wide audience. Sections are based on themes such as “Reckoning with Mestizaje.” Each work of art is also accompanied by an individualized discussion, bibliography, and glossary. Viewable in both English and Spanish.

  • Mujica Pinilla, Ramón, et al., eds. El barroco peruano. 2 vols. Lima, Peru: Banco de Crédito del Perú, 2002–2003.

    Two ambitious volumes that provide an overview of baroque art in Peru and include numerous paintings. They feature sumptuous color illustrations of hundreds of works of art, many of which have never been published or are difficult to see in person.

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