The beautiful Costa Rican art is of great pride for our culture, since over time it has been expressing what has been the social behavior of our people and the history of the country. The first two artists of our country who were recognized were the painter Enrique Echandi and the sculptor Juan Ramón Bonilla.
Costa Rican pre-Columbian art was generated by three native cultures of our territory, before the arrival of the Spaniards in the year 1502. They developed different artistic works that did not have very large formats, but did have meaning and of great significance to them. The pre-Columbian artists used their imagination a lot and in their art was influenced by three different indigenous cultures: the Mayas, the Olmecs and the Muiscas. Prehispanic art was expressed mostly in sculptures and ceramics. The value of our native inhabitants artistic works were taken into account long time later in the early twentieth century.
After our independence, the progress of Costa Rican art was limited, due to the fact that priority was given to the process of national formation. After that and around the year 1870 our art came back to life, since institutions were created for that specific purpose, such as the Academy of Fine Arts and the National Theater of Costa Rica, by that time there were many European artists who immigrated, they came from Spain, France, Germany, Italy and other countries, they help enrich artistic development in painting, sculpture and architecture.
Our art continues to advance
The period from 1920 to 1930 is of vital importance, since in that time more artists became known, who already had thought to have their own identity. They created something new in our national art, uniting the expression of the natives and everything that had to do with the peasants. Their exhibitions were carried out between 1928 and 1937, when all the painters and the sculptors had presented to our country this new type of art.
The colonial religious art in our country
The Catholic temples of our country are very simple, these were at one time a place for education. The church of Orosi is the most important colonial artistic temple and has the most significance for the country, since within it are kept several oil paintings from Mexico and sculptures that were brought from Guatemala, which are of New Spain (colonial) art. The art in these churches were originated from wood, which the natives decorated for the altars, thanks to this, the beautiful designs they developed became the most important artistic expression at that time. They also came to elaborate different sculptures in which they only elaborated the face, the hands and the feet of the saint, these would then be united by wires and covered with clothes.
Costa Rican art began to take great steps ahead towards the end of the 19th century, since in that period of time art would begin developing in the classical tradition. From around 1880, ideas for the monuments that would be dedicated to the National Campaign of 1856 and 1857 began, with the statue of Juan Santamaría, the National Monument of Costa Rica with its baroque design which was in charge at the time of Aleardo Villa, Adriático Foll and Pietro Bulgarell, as well as the Spaniard Tomás Povedano.
Later the National Theater was inaugurated, that was of great importance in becoming a platform from which new art could be created, this was the Hedonist art, which was directed by a tiny group of merchants and coffee growers who were part of the national elite, from here the first School of Fine Arts was also inaugurated.
A new identity
The ambassador of Argentina in Costa Rica in 1928, promoted the first official exhibition of plastic arts, which was held at the National Theater, it extended until 1937. These series of exhibitions led to the discovery of two different arts tendencies: the “academics” that was based on the School of Fine Arts and the “new artists” who at that time were known as the New Sensibility, this unknown group recovered the autochthonous past, since they took into account the artistic avant-gardes that traveled to the American continent.