The history of art in the Dominican Republic

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The story of art in the Dominican Republic began as it did throughout the rest of the world. Meaning that, we don't know how or when art actually began in this Caribbean region. To gain a better understanding of this history, the timeline of Dominican art can be divided into three main stages, or eras:

  • Art created by the Taino people, the pre - colonial times (4000 bce - 1492).
  • Art created during the euro - colonial times (1492 - 1844).
  • Art created after the birth of the republic, Dominican Independence (1844 - present).

Merengue by Jaime Colson (1938)

Merengue, 1938, Jaime Colson
Oil on cardboard, 52 x 68 cm. Image: Bellapart Museum, Santo Domingo
“There really is no such thing as Art. There are only artists.”
—E.H Gombrich, The Story of Art (1950)

The latter stage beginning in 1844, can be further broken down into the generations of artists that have created art at one point in time, and their influence on what today we consider to be Dominican art–or art made by individuals born or descendent to the Dominican Republic. Decades before the formation of the Dominican Republic (independence, 1844), some native inhabitants were creating and making a living from art. However, records may not survive, or in the case of Francisco Velásquez and Diego José Hilaris, records kept are poor and confirmation is not possible. In the case of Francisco Velásquez; it is said that he was born in Santo Domingo in the latter part of the 18th century and died between 1822 - 1830. While Diego José Hilaris is believed to have been born in Higüey, also in the latter part of the 18th century with no estimated year of death.

The Pre - Colonial Period: Taíno Art 4000 BCE – 1492 CE

Before the European invasion heralded by one Christopher Columbus, the Taínos of Quisqueya and of the Greater Antilles were creating art, deliberate or not, in the form of pottery, stone and wood carvings, jewelry and cave drawings. These first artists belonged to a subgroup of the Arawak indigenous people of the Caribbean and South America. It is believed that the Arawak settled the Caribbean via the Orinoco region (present day Guyana and Venezuela).

Like most indigenous societies, the early Taínos that arrived on Quisqueya were hunter-gatherers and fishermen. This way of life influenced the tools created by their first craftsmen, such as; weapons, cultivation tools, ornamental, burial items and tools of art.

The tools of art in Taíno society included wood, clay, shells, stone, charcoal, plant and animal based colors. These tools were used to create not art as interpreted today, but items of worship to honor the dead and the various gods of the time. Carbon dating of artifacts found throughout the Caribbean suggests that the Tainos have been creating decorative items from as early as 4000 BCE.

Today, some of these tools and ceremonial items survive in museums and private collections around the world. But there is no way of knowing what and how much of Taino art has been lost to time and greed.

"Idolo Antropomorfo" Taínos wood sculpture c. 350-1500 CE.

Idolo Antropomorfo, Taínos wood sculpture
Wood carving / wood carving. 19 x 9.7 x 12.5 cm. Image: Centro Leon Jimenes.

Cave Art

In Taino mythology, the sun, the moon and the first humans emerged from a cave called Cacibajagua. A significant part of Taino culture, caves were also believed to be a connection to the underworld which allowed passage for the dead. The Tainos revered caves as holy places which they adorned with likenesses of human - like figures and fauna. These drawings were added to the walls using ink derived from local plants, animal fat and charcoal. As to whether the Taino people considered this art, record keeping or simply symbols expressing the teachings of their faith is up for debate.

Throughout the Dominican Republic, but mostly concentrated in the southern region, we find several cave systems adorned with petroglyphs (rock engravings) and pictographs (paintings on the walls). The Pomier Caves is a system made up of more than fifty caves, located north of the San Cristóbal province. Rediscovered in 1851 by Sir Robert Schonburgk (5 June 1804 – 11 March 1865) , a British consul to the Dominican Republic (1848 - 1857), some of the rock - art in these caves are said to be more than 2000 years old.

Pictographs at Hoyo de Sanabe Sánchez Ramírez, RD.

Pictographs at Hoyo de Sanabe, Sánchez Ramírez, RD.
Image: Taínos, arte y sociedad, Manuel A. García Arévalo, © Banco Popular Dominicano, 2019

Art during the Colony: 1492 - 1844

The years after the arrival of the european colonizers (1492), and before the Unification of Quisqueya (1822), were the dark ages in the island. This period in history is a time of 'demographic, cultural, and economic deterioration' initiated by the arrival of Christopher Columbus, and continued by the colonial ambitions of European immigrants through appropriations, slavery, rape and genocide.

During this period, an identity transition from natives to a mixed race is taking place. The first children of european immigrants were born, raised, matured, and established the new generation of native inhabitants. The Taino people were displaced along with their beliefs and artistic creations. The European religions use violence to establish their reign, and begin to build churches. The Cathedral of Santa María la Menor was commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1504. Construction began in 1512, and was completed in 1541. Along with the churches came the commissions of euro - style religious artwork, and a new appreciation of the art object.

Few if any works of art completed during this period may have survived. Restored religious artwork completed during the last decades of the 18th century survives today at the Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor in Santo Domingo. Two artists are attributed with some of these works; Francisco Velásquez (17?? - 18??), possibly born in Santo Domingo during the late 17th century, and died between 1822 - 1830, and Diego José Hilaris (17?? - 18??), who is said was possibly born in the city of Higüey, but no known year of birth or death.

Dominican Independence and the Roots of a National Art Identity

During the time period beginning in 1800, the first men and women of Dominican art were born and began their learning in the arts. These are the artists that start to lay the foundation for a national art. Their instructors include European immigrants that pass on the “pictorial and sculptural production guidelines of European academics fluctuating between the romantic and neoclassical style.”

In 1838, Juan Pablo Duarte founded La Trinitaria, and so began the fight for independence. La Trinitaria gave birth to La Filantrópica and La Dramática, societies used to spread separatist ideas by staging theatrical street events. On February 27, 1844, La Trinitaria declared its independence from Haiti and paved the way for the Republic.

Many of the artists from this period in time, and like many names before them, are probably lost to history. We cannot know all the people that were creating or reproducing art during these times because record keeping at the time were poor to non-existent. But records and works do remain of three native Dominicans; Domingo Echavarría, Epifanio Billini and León Cordero. These three men are known to have been making a living as artists or part-time artists, during the early days of the republic, and are the first artists to begin laying the foundation for a national artistic identity.

The first of these artists is Domingo Echavarría, born 1805 in Santo Domingo, died in 1849. Echavarría was a painter, caricaturist and engraver, and is credited as the first artist to have a caricature published in a newspaper; "The Haitian General Marching" published in El Dominicano, in 1845. His reputation as an artist starts with works commissioned by the church.

León Cordero, born 1809 in Santo Domingo, died 1874, is the artist of most importance during this time period. His reputation as an artist is also gained via the church, through the restoration and retouching of religious works. Cordero is the earliest known artist of the time to start an art workshop. He is attributed with giving lessons to a prominent future artist; Luis Desangles. It is also believed that Alejandro Bonilla may have also taken lessons under Cordero.

Epifanio Billini, born 1820 in Santo Domingo, died 1891, is the third important name of this time period associated with the early foundation of Dominican art. An early member of La Trinitaria Society, he was the most renowned artist in Santo Domingo during these times. Recognized as the first Dominican photographer, he is said to have enjoyed a successful career as an artist, penman and educator in Santo Domingo. After studying abroad in Philadelphia, USA, Billini returned to Santo Domingo where he established a daguerreotype shop. His daughter, Adriana Billini (1863 - 1946), whose initial art training was probably from her father, becomes the first successful woman of Dominican art.

Theodore Chasseriau: The Great Unknown Romantic

Some may say that the story of Dominican art is not complete if we do not include the celebrated French Romantic painter Théodore Chassériau (September 20, 1819 – October 8, 1856). He was born in El Limón, a town in the city Samaná of the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo, España Boba (1809 - 1821). His father Benoît Chassériau, was French, his mother Maria Magdalena Couret de la Blagniére, is said to have been the “daughter of a mulatto landowner born in Saint - Domingue (now Haiti).”

In 1820, Chassériau's father moved the family to France where he would go on to study art and become known for his “religious paintings, scenes from Antiquity, and portraits.” We can think of Chasseriau as the first artist of the Dominican diaspora, however, unlike other artists of the time, Chasseriau’s impact on Dominican art came at a much later time.

The First Generation: 1844 - 1900

The first artists active during this period (Echavaria, Billini, Cordero) would be the ones that influenced and passed down the ideas and techniques to the precursors of the art era which materialized in the final decades of the 1800s. The artists born and trained during this time period go on to influence the generations there after, including the artists of today. The records available show an increase in interest throughout the many cities of the day, but cannot truly reflect the number of men and women active as artists in one way or another. But the one thing that we can gather from the records is that art as it is known today in the Dominican Republic traces its roots through the many artists of the contemporary and modern era back to four individuals born between 1800 and 1900.

Alejandro Bonilla, Luis Desangles, Abelardo R. Urdaneta and Celeste Woss y Gil are the four artists whose branches have produced the most important artistic lineages in the Dominican Republic. These four individuals have influenced many aspiring artists throughout the times and their respective workshops have trained many of the artists recognized as the early masters of Dominican art. In the case of Luis Desangles, a great number of artists of today can trace their training back to his home based workshop Casa-Taller.

Alejandro Bonilla Correa-Cruzado (1820 - 1901), is the first of the great artists credited as a precursor of Dominican art. Born in Santo Domingo to a Puerto Rican father, named Juan Manuel Bonilla, and a native María Idelfonsa Correa-Cruzado. It is believed that he may have begun his artistic training in his city of birth, possibly under Leon Cordero. In 1868, the state of politics forced Bonilla to exile in Venezuela where he continued his artistic development in the city of Caracas. While there, Bonilla opens his first workshop where he also offers lessons. Six years later, he returns to Santo Domingo and opens a workshop in his own house.

In 1887, Bonilla completed what is considered to be the first ever portrait of Juan Pablo Duarte (1813 - 1876). It is said that Bonilla painted the portrait from memory, as he was a friend to Duarte. The portrait was so regarded that in 1888 the Dominican Congress granted Bonilla a 10 year patent to exclusively reproduce the image in whatever mediums he wished. On March 10, 1970, a law was promulgated which would make Bonilla's oil painting one of two official references "for the correct reproduction of the physiognomy of Juan Pablo Duarte, Founder of the Republic." His skill and fame from the Duarte portraits, made Bonilla one of the most respected and sought after artist during his time.

Luis Desangles Lubiles (8 February 1861 - 13 April 1940), known as "Sisito" to his friends, was born in Santo Domingo. He was the son of Juan Pedro Desangles, a native of the Pyrenees (France), and Teresa Sibilly, a native of Curaçao. From an early age he expressed a love and interest in the arts. Desangles comes under the tutelage of Leon Cordero in the year 1870, and continues his lessons until Cordero's death in 1874. He would then travel to Italy to continue artistic studies, developing in the fields of drawing, sculpture and painting. In 1883 he opened his first workshop in Santo Domingo, Casa-Taller, where he instructed many of the great names that go on to define the early era of art in the country.

Like Bonilla, Desangles was also recognized for his portraits of political figures, such as Juan Pablo Duarte, and including; Buenaventura Báez Méndez, Matías Ramón Mella, Francisco del Rosario Sánchez and Gregorio Luperón, Ulises Francisco Espaillat nad Eugenio María de Hostos.

Some of the most recognizable names that studied art under Desangles include; Abelardo Rodríguez Urdaneta, Antonio Fiallo, Arturo Grullón, Leopoldo Navarro, Adolfo García Obregón, Manuel María Sanabia, Arquímedes de la Concha, Carlos Ramírez Guerra, Manuel Buñols Medina and Francisco González Lamarche.

Abelardo Rodríguez Urdaneta (June 24, 1870 - 1933) was born in Santo Domingo, where his first lessons in art are said to have been under the Spanish artist Juan Fernández Corredor, who arrived in Santo Domingo around 1883. He would later continue his training under Luis Desangles. Considered one of the first true multidisciplinary artists, Urdaneta also excelled as a sculptor, musician, educator and as a photographer. His studies in photography are said to have been under a Dutch photographer known locally as Naar, and a Spaniard named Francisco Adrover (1861 - 1924). Adrover, a native of the Balearic Islands, arrived in Santo Domingo in 1887.

Urdaneta was one of the earliest photographers in the country to see the medium as an art. His early experimentations included many self-portraits.

In 1908, with support from the Central Government, Abelardo opened an academy of drawing, painting and sculpture. Alumni of his academy include; Celeste Woss y Gil, Delia Weber, Genoveva Báez, Aida Ibarra and Fernando 'Tuto' Báez.

His legacy as one of the most important artists of Dominican art is cemented In 1890, when he completed an oil portrait of Juan Pablo Duarte, on a 24 x 30 inch canvas. The image, inspired in great part by the earlier works of Alejandro Bonilla (1820 - 1901), is today the most recognized and admired reproduction of the founding father. This was followed in 1913 by a famous bust of Duarte, and the self-portrait of the artist standing alongside his creation.

Although the story of art in the Dominican Republic has to this point only included men, women have also played an important role in the creation and promoting of art in the country.

Celeste Woss y Gil (May 5, 1890 - 1985), born in Santo Domingo, is the first woman recognized as an important figure of the formation and promotion of a national artistic identity. Her contributions to the arts were not just on canvas and paper. Woss y Gil was an active fighter for women’s rights and education.

Her father, Alejandro Woss y Gil (May 5, 1856 – January 1, 1932) was a Dominican politician and military figure, born in El Seibo. He served briefly as president of the Dominican Republic, 1885 - 1887, and in 1903. Eight months into his second presidency, Celeste’s father was removed and the family exiled to France. Her family would later move to Cuba where Celeste studied art under José Joaquín Tejada. It is said that Celeste may have begun her early studies in art under Abelardo Rodríguez Urdaneta, before her family’s exile.

In 1922, Celeste traveled to New York City where she enrolled at the Art Students League of New York, and studied under Frank Vincent Du Mond. Two years later she would return to Santo Domingo and open her first art school Escuela Estudio Woss y Gil (1924 - 1928). Celeste traveled back to New York in 1928 to complete her art studies, returning to Santo Domingo in 1931, and opened her second art school Academia de Pintura y Dibujo (1931 - 1942).

In August 1942, Celeste Woss y Gil, together with Josep Gausachs, Manolo Pascual and José Vela Zanetti joined the newly established Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes, where she eventually becomes director. Her students included; Clara Ledesma, Marianela Jiménez, Rosa Taverez, Gilberto Hernández Ortega and Tomás López Ramos.

The influence and work of these four artists; Bonilla, Desangles, Urdaneta and Woss y Gil, helped define what we today call Dominican art. These four were the first to make art their livelihoods, benefit from their work, and pass on their knowledge to future generations. This does not at all discredit the work that other artists from this generation that created art and also passed on their knowledge. There were also artists during this time period that immigrated to Santo Domingo from Europe and even Cuba, that also helped train the young artists of that generation.

Fúnebre entierro de Sánchez by Alejandro Bonilla (1875)

Fúnebre entierro de Sánchez, by Alejandro Bonilla, 1875
Oil on canvas. 25 x 25 in. Image: Galeria Mamey

Notable Artists Of The First Generation

Alejandro Bonilla (1820 - 1901), born in Santo Domingo. The great painter of the era. Completed first 'official' portrait of Juan Pablo Duarte in 1887.

Rodolfo Domingo Cambiaso y Sosa (1852 - 1916). Born in Santo Domingo, son of the founder of the Dominican Navy, possibly a student of León Cordero, also studied art in Europe.

Luis Desangles (1861 - 1940), born in Santo Domingo. Instructor to many of the great artists of the era, painter, sculptor and educator.

Leopoldo Navarro (1862 - 1908), born in Santo Domingo. Son of a French father and a Dominican mother. An early student of Luis Desangles.

Julio Pou (1862 - 1940). Born in Santo Domingo, he is an outstanding photographer and portrait painter with activity between the end of the 19th century and decades of the 20th century.

Abelardo Piñeyro (1862 - 1958), born in Santo Domingo. A pharmacist before he was a painter, Piñeyro used his scientific training to experiment with pigments.

Adriana Billini (1865 - 1946), born in Santo Domingo. The first female artist of the diaspora, raised, lived and worked in Habana, Cuba.

Arturo Grullón (1869 - 1942), born in Santiago de los Caballeros. A student of Luis Desangles.

Dolores Fernández de Castro (18?? - 19??). A native of San Francisco de Macorís, she is mentioned in the National Exhibition of 1890. In her native town she exercises artistic teaching (20th century) with few students and in free moments that domestic life left her.

Abelardo Rodríguez Urdaneta (1870 - 1933), born in Santo Domingo. Multidisciplinary artist; painter, sculptor, photographer. Artist of the most recognized images of Juan Pablo Duarte on canvas and sculpture.

Archimedes de la Concha (1870 - 1952). Born in Santo Domingo, he began training with Fernández Corredor, later excelling as a Desangles student. Gained a reputation from drawing the famous image Lilís Ahorcado."

Francisco González Lamarche (1873 - 1950). He was born in Puerto Plata. Training at the Municipal School of Drawing in Santo Domingo, cultivating both painting and sculpture. In the 1901 exhibition contest, he presented a Bust of Desangles, for which he was awarded.

Juan Bautista Gómez (1874 - 1945), born in Santiago de los Caballeros. Opened one of the first art workshops in Santiago. Yoryi Morel was one of his students

Enrique García Godoy (1886 - 1947), born in La Vega. He was a painter and sculptor, author of several notable works.

The Second Generation: 1900 - 1940

Many of the most recognizable names in Dominican art have their artistic formation in the early decades of the 20th century. This list includes such important names as; Celeste Woss y Gil, Jaime Colson, Yoryi Morel, Dario Suro, Paul Giudicelli, Clara Ledesma, Ramón Oviedo, Guillo Pérez and Candido Bido. These artists are the first to achieve true international success, exhibiting not only in Caribbean and European countries, but also the eastern United States, Mexico and several countries in South America.

Jaime Antonio Colson (13 January 1901 – 20 November 1975) was born in Puerto Plata, “the son of Antonio González, a Spanish merchant, and Juana María Colson Tradwell, a Dominican woman of European American descent.” His portraits, landscapes and still life works varied within the realms of impressionism, Cubism and Surrealism. At age 17, Colson would travel to Spain (1918), where he would begin his artistic training. His further travels included France, Mexico (1934) and Cuba. In 1938, Colson held a solo show in Santo Domingo and continued to travel abroad before returning to the homeland again in 1950 and being named General Director of Fine Arts.

Yoryi Morel, (25 October 1906–1979), is nationally recognized for his landscape works and portraiture. Born Jorge Octavio Morel Tavárez on October 25, 1906 in Santiago de los Caballeros, his first lessons in art were under another native of Santiago, Juan Bautista Gomez (1870-1945). In 1933, he founded the "Academia Yoryi” in Santiago. In 1948, he was appointed Deputy Director of the National School of Fine Art in Santo Domingo. In 1973 he was honored with the “Order of Merit of Duarte, Sánchez and Mella” and the rank of "Caballero." And in 2006, in celebration of Morel’s centennial, he was declared the "Pintor Nacional" (national painter) by the Dominican Congress.

Dario Suro, born Darío Antonio Suro García-Godoy (June 13, 1917, La Vega – January 18, 1997, Santo Domingo), made his name as an artist, art critic and a diplomat. His lessons in art began under his uncle and fellow Vegano, Enrique García-Godoy (1886-1947). Suro, like Morel, is celebrated for his Impressionist landscapes of the countryside. After the assasination of Trujillo, Suro’s life took a turn into politics – holding several diplomatic positions in representation of the Dominican Republic in the United States. But art still remained his passion, and continued to spread oils and acrylics on canvas.

Paul Giudicelli Palmieri (1921–1965), was born in San Pedro de Macorís to French immigrants. A gifted abstract artist heavily influenced by primitivism, his career was too short lived. Unlike other artists in this list, art was not Giudicelli’s first passion. Before enrolling in the National School of Fine Arts in Santo Domingo, in 1951, he had tried his luck as a merchant to support his wife and two children. His first solo show was held 1953 at the National Gallery of Fine Arts in Santo Domingo, where he exhibited a total of 70 works in oils, gouaches, watercolors and drawings.

Clara Ledesma Terrazas (5 March 1924 – 25 May 1999) was born in Santiago de los Caballeros, where she began her artistic orientation at the Yoryi Morel academy. She would later attend the National School of Fine Arts in Santo Domingo, where she studies under Josep Gausachs, Woss y Gil, Pascual and Vela Zanetti, followed by studies in Europe. Along with Gausachs, olson, and Hernández Ortega, Ledesma also forms a part of the celebrated art collective “Los Cuatro.” In 1955, she is named vice director of the National School of Fine Arts, helping to influence the next generation until 1961, when she moves with her family to New York City. Clara Ledesma would continue her artistic career in New York until her death in 1999.

Ramón Oviedo (February 7, 1924 - July 12, 2015) was born in the southern province of Barahona. His artistic development began at a young age in a photogravure workshop with Manuel Pelegrín, in Santo Domingo (1937), followed by the Dominican Institute of Cartography in 1950. He continued with his training at the North American School of Panama, where he studied art, graduating in 1953. During the 1960s, the Dominican Republic suffered through political instability as the status quo fought back the revolutionary changes of President Juan Bosch. Oviedo, and several artists of this time, used their art to help spread a socioeconomic message to the populace. This earned Oviedo the title of “el pintor de la revolución” (the painter of the revolution).

Guillo Pérez, born Guillermo Pérez Chicón (Moca, August 3, 1923 - Santo Domingo, March 9, 2014), was a multidisciplinary artist considered one of the most prolific and influential artists of his generation. Perez was a favorite of art collectors for his extensive works depicting the countryside fields and its laborers. Before painting, he had studied religion and music, becoming a skilled violinist. In 1950 he enrolled at the School of Fine Arts in Santiago, later relocating to Santo Domingo where he began his career as a professor of art. In 1960, he helped establish the National School of Fine Arts in the city of la Vega, where he also teaches. In 1970, he became Director and Professor of the National School of Fine Arts, Santo Domingo. And in 1988, Director and Professor at the Guillo Pérez School of Painting in Santo Domingo.

Cándido Bidó (20 May 1936 – 7 March 2011) was born in the city of Bonao, in the Monseñor Nouel province. Like Guillo Perez, Bido’s mantle in Dominican art is attributed to his themes of the countryside and daily routines of the common man, and a style of bright primary colors encased in bold black lines that is instantly recognizable in the national art scene. Throughout his career Bido helped to establish several art academies, including the School of Arts of the Dominican Air Force in Santo Domingo (1996). His legacy is continued through the Museo Cándido Bidó (2004), part of the Plaza de la Cultura, which he founded in 1987, in his native city of Bonao.

Notable Names Of The Second Generation

Bienvenido Gimbernard (1883-1971), born in Santo Domingo. Cartoonist, editor, writer and photographer. He was director of the Cosmopolita magazine, the one he founded in 1919. During the first American intervention (1916-1924), he created the character Concho Primo, a nationalist peasant.

Celeste Woss y Gil (1890 - 1985), born in Santo Domingo. The first female master painter. She helped push the education of art in the country. One of the first instructors at the National School of Fine Arts.

Fernando 'Tuto' Báez (1895 - 1960), born in Monte Cristi. Moved to Santiago where he studied under Arturo Grullon. Baez later moves to the capital where he enrolls in the art academy of Abelardo R. Urdaneta.

Jaime Colson (1901 - 1975), born in Puerto Plata. Colson traveled to Spain in his teenage years where he studied art in Paris and Barcelona. Colson is one of the most recognizable figures of Dominican art. His works range within many movements; cubism, surrealism, symbolism, expressionism, neoclassicism.

Yoryi Morel (1906 - 1979), born in Santiago de los Caballeros. His landscapes remain the standard for young artist today. In 1940, he founded the "Yoryi" Academy in Santiago. In 1973, Morel is named "Caballero" and receives the "Order of Duarte, Sánchez and Mella."

Darío Suro (1917 - 1997), born in La Vega. Artist, art critic and diplomat, he first studied art under his uncle Enrique García - Godoy.

Mario Grullón (1918 - 1994), born in Santiago de los Caballeros. Impressionist artist, his first lessons in art were from Yoryi Morel.

Paul Giudicelli (1921 - 1965), born in San Pedro de Macoris. The son of French parents, though he showed an interest in art at a young age, it wasn't until his late twenties that Giudicelli began to dedicate himself as an artist. Giudicelli is remembered for his use of Taino imagery in his abstract works.

Clara Ledesma (1924 - 1999), born in Santiago de los Caballeros. Ledesma is one of the most recognizable names in Dominican art. In 1964, Clara Ledesma moved to New York where she lived and worked until her passing.

Gilberto H. Ortega (1924 - 1979), born in Bani. Ortega was raised in Santo Domingo. A student of Celeste Woss y Gil, Ortega was part of the first class of the National School of Fine Arts, where he became a professor in 1946 and was named vice director in 1954.

Marianela Jiménez Reyes (1925 - March 29, 2013) was born in Mao, Valverde, Dominican Republic. She studied at the National School of Fine Arts.

Gaspar Mario Cruz (1925–2006), born in San Francisco de Macoris. Cruz was a painter and celebrated wood sculptor. He graduated from the National School of Fine Arts in 1952.

Guilo Perez (1926 - 2014), born in Moca. Perez participated in more than 70 exhibitions during his career. Former professor and director of the School of Fine Arts in Santiago de los Caballeros.

Ramón Oviedo (1924 - 2015), born in Barahona. Oviedo's style and socio - political themes made him a leading figure of Dominican expressionism.

Fernando Peña Defilló (1926 - 2016), born in Santo Domingo. Peña Defilló was a leading figure of the contemporary era.

Soucy Pellerano (1928 - January 1, 2014) was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Graduated from the National School of Fine Arts in 1967 and PhD in Pharmacy and Chemistry from the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD).

Nidia Serra (1928 - June 21, 2010), was born in Santo Domingo. She was the first artist to direct the National School of Fine Arts. She is considered a great academic of Dominican painting.

Eridania Mir (1929), was born in San Pedro de Macoris. Raised in Santo Domingo, she is also one of the first graduates of the National School of Fine Arts. Mir participates in biennials and various group exhibitions.

Eligio Pichardo (1929 - 1984), born in Salcedo. Pichardo was raised in San Francisco de Macoris. He studied at the National School of Fine Arts and in Paris.

Ada Balcácer (1930), born in Santo Domingo. She studied at the National School of Fine Arts. In 1946, she lost her arm in a horse riding accident. Before her accident she dreamed of being a doctor, it was after she lost her arm that art became her focus.

Jorge Noceda Sánchez (September 6, 1925 - March 11, 1987), born in Santo Domingo. One of first great surrealist artist in the country, he graduated with a degree in medicine from the University of Santo Domingo in 1952. Moved to New York to continue his medical studies, instead began to paint.

Domingo Liz (1931 - 2013), born in Santo Domingo. A graduate of the National School of Fine Arts. Liz is remembered for his insistence on artistic originality.

Plutarco Andujar (1931 - 1995), born in Monte Cristi. He studied art at the National School of Fine Arts, Europe and the United States.

Cándido Bidó (1936 - 2011), born in Bonao. Bido's style is one the most emblematic of the national identity in the contemporary era. He is remembered for his themes and his use of bold lines and bright primary colors.

José Ramírez Conde (1940 - 1987), born in Bani. A graduate of the National School of Fine Arts. His murals adorn many cities in the Dominican Republic.

La madre by Celeste Woss y Gil (1941)

La madre, Celeste WOss y Gil, 1941
Oil on canvas. 46 by 33 cms. Image: Centro Leon Jimenes.

The Influence Women in Dominican Art

From the early moments of the introduction of modern art which followed the pictorial and sculptural production guidelines of European academics in the Dominican Republic, women have played a vital role in the nurturing of a national artistic identity. However, rarely are women given a prominent role in the storytelling of events and norms that have shaped art history in this Caribbean paradise.

The year 1844 marks two important moments in the history of the Dominican Republic. The first is independence, in which the country gained its autonomy from Haiti on February 27, 1844. Second, is the establishment of a national identity that promotes "an artistic flourishing in which the seeds that take root and lead to the definitions of a national Dominican art are planted."

Throughout this short history, from the introduction of the styles and mediums that make up what we call modern art, to contemporary times, women have contributed to the national artistic identity in many ways. This includes education, aesthetics and national and international success. Education, like in all societies, has been the most important process used to promote art throughout the Dominican Republic. Like the men credited as the precursors of Dominican art (Cordero, Desangles, Bonilla, Urdaneta), women too, from the early start, have provided the means for art education through workshops and academic positions.

The list of women that deserve to be highlighted is monumental. In this short article I've included many names from the modern era to contemporary times. I have already stressed the importance of one of our greatest and most important artists, Celeste Woss y Gil. Along with Wos y Gil, several other women deserve their names on the list of important Dominican artists.

Adriana Billini (1865-1946), daughter of Epifanio Billini (1820-1891), born in Santo Domingo, the first female artist of the diaspora. One of—if not the first female working artist born in the Dominican Republic. At a young age her family moves to Cuba where Adriana studies art at the San Alejandro Academy in Habana. She had a notable career as an artist in Habana, where she opened an art workshop and edited a book for learning to draw. Adriana would also go on to teach art at the San Alejandro Academy. In 1927, she traveled to Santo Domingo for the first time to exhibit her work.

Maria Lora de Dalmasi (1900-1973), born in the city of La Vega. She was an artist, teacher and social activist. In her later years Maria Lora was very involved with education and the promotion of the arts throughout her hometown of La Vega and the neighboring city of Cotuí. Two of the oldest colonial cities of the western hemisphere.

María Lora began her studies in music and painting at the age of 14 under a professor named Manuel A. Pueyo, a musician and artist that immigrated from Spain. She also studies art under another great artist from La Vega, Enrique García Godoy (1886-1947).

Delia Weber (1900-1982), born in Santo Domingo, teacher, artist, poet and film actress and social activist. She studied art under three great artist, Celeste Woss y Gil, Adolfo García Obregón and Abelardo Rodríguez Urdaneta.

Her literary works include poems and novels. She published her first poems in 1918, in the feminist magazine "Revista Fémina." In 1939, she published two books "Ascuas vivas" and "Encuentro."

Clara Ledesma (1924-1999), born in Santiago, died in New York in 1999. She received her first art lessons from the great impressionist Yoryi Morel.

Ledesma was one of the first women to join the National School of Fine Arts, graduating in 1948. She then became a professor, and later became Deputy Director. With Jaime Colson, Joseph Gausachs and Gilberto Hernandez Ortega, she forms the artistic collaboration The Four.

Ada Balcácer, born 16 June 1930, in Santo Domingo. Her dreams were to become a doctor, but a horse riding accident (1946) resulted in her left arm being amputated. This event forced a turn in Balcacer’s life which eventually found her at the National School of Arts in Santo Domingo, graduating in 1951. Further training took place in Puerto Rico and the United States, where she lived until 1961, before returning to Santo Domingo.

Notable Female Artists

Adriana Billini (1865 - 1946), born in Santo Domingo. Daughter of Epifanio Billini (1820 - 1891), she was the first artist of the diaspora.

Celeste Woss y Gil (1890 - 1985), born in Santo Domingo. Woss y Gil is the first female master painter. She helped push the education of art in the country. One of the first instructors at the National School of Fine Arts.

Genoveva Báez (1895 - 1980), born in Santo Domingo. A relatively unknown artist, she studied art under Abelardo R. Urdaneta.

Maria Lora de Dalmasi (1900 - 1973), born in La Vega. Artist, teacher and social activist. Dalmasi was very involved with education in La Vega and Cotuí.

Delia Weber (1900 - 1982) was born in Santo Domingo. She was an artist, poet, writer, actor, a teacher and woman's rights activist.

Aida Ibarra (1911-2002), born in Santo Domingo, began her art studies with Abelardo Rodríguez Urdaneta, and then moved to Paris where she continued to study art.

Elsa Gruning (1923-1990), born in Santo Domingo, studied art with Celeste Woss and Gil. Gruning held several exhibitions in the Dominican Republic and abroad, including Venezuela, Colombia, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, and the United States.

Purita Baron (1924), born in Santo Domingo. A student of Celeste Woss y Gil and a graduate of the National School of Fine Arts.

Marianela Jiménez (1925 - 2013), born in Valverde, Mao. She studied at the National School of Fine Arts in Santo Domingo, and at the workshops of Celeste Woss y Gil.

Noemí Mella (1926 - 1995) was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. "Upon graduating from the National School in 1948, she excelled in obtaining the 'Trujillo Grand Prize for Painting'" Painting.

Soucy de Pellerano (1928 - 2014), born in Santo Domingo. She was raised in Puerto Plata where she received the first artistic orientation at the academy of Rafael Arzeno.

Nidia Serra (1928 - 2010), was born in Santo Domingo. Serra was a graduate of the National School of Fine Arts.

Ada Balcácer (1930), born in Santo Domingo. She studied at the National School of Fine Arts. In 1946, she lost her arm in a horse riding accident. Before her accident she dreamed of being a doctor, it was after she lost her arm that art became her focus.

Euridice Canaán Fernández (January 8, 1933 - October 14, 1996), was born in San Francisco de Macorís, Dominican Republic, the daughter of José Fortunato Canaán and Ana Agustina Fernández. Poet, novelist, painter and sculptor, he studied art at the National Academy of Fine Arts in Santo Domingo and at the San Fernando Academy in Madrid.

Rosa Tavarez (1939), born in Santiago de los Caballeros. Began her art studies under Yoryi Morel.

Rosa Idalia García was born in 1944, in the city of Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic. Student at the School of Fine Arts in her hometown. García also received art lessons from Yoryi Morel (Santiago, 1906-1976) and Federico Izquierdo (Monción, 1904-2004).

Bertica Garcia Dubus was born in 1949, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She began her art studies at Saint Dominic College in Saint Charles, Illinois, where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

Elsa Núñez (1950) born in Santo Domingo. She is a graduate of the National School of Fine Arts in Santo Domingo, and the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Spain.

Amaya Salazar (1951), born in Santo Domingo. Painter and sculptor, began her studies in Santo Domingo and then continued in Spain and the United States.

Charo Oquet was born in 1952, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She is an interdisciplinary artist who lives and works in Miami, FL.

Carolina Cepeda Mendez was born on April 13, 1952, in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic. She studied painting and drawing at the National School of Fine Arts in Santiago in 1966.

Iris de Mondesert was born on April 13, 1954, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She is an architect, jewelry designer, illustrator and teacher.

Tomasina Tapia (1955), born Santo Domingo. A graduate of the National School of Fine Arts. Lives and works in Mexico.

Belkis Ramirez (1957 - May 15, 2019), was born in Santiago Rodríguez. She studied at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, where she graduated in Architecture and Graphic Design in 1986.

Olivia Peguero (9161), born in Barahona. She completed a bachelor's degree of fine art studio painting from Florida Atlantic University, Florida; a bachelor's degree in management information systems from Mercy College, New York; and a master's degree in business administration from Nova Southeastern University, Florida.

Ines Tolentino (1963), born in Santo Domingo. Studied art in Paris (1980 - 1985).

Mónica Ferreras de la Maza, was born in 1965, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She studied in Altos de Chavón, where she obtained a degree in fine arts and illustration. She then studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague, The Netherlands.

Scherezade Garcia (1966), born in Santo Domingo. She is a painter, printmaker and installation artist.

Iris Pérez was born on December 17, 1967 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She studies at the National School of Fine Arts and the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD). She attended specialty workshops in the area of painting and the sculpture workshop with teachers Leopoldo Pérez and Domingo Liz.

Raquel Paiewonsky (1969), born in Puerto Plata. Multidisciplinary artist, Paiewonsky graduated in 1991 from the Altos de Chavón School of Design in La Romana.

Photography in the Dominican Republic

The history of photography in the Dominican Republic, artistic or not, coincides with the national independence of 1844 and the roots of the national art, with Epifanio Billini (Santo Domingo, 1820-1891), recognized as the first person to become a photographer for purpose of record, hobby or career. In 1957, Billini opened a shop for daguerreotype, “a photographic process invented by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre and introduced worldwide in 1839.”

In 'History of Dominican Photography,' Jeannette Miller tells us that the earliest records show that the arrival of photography to the country was through Cuban migrants in the early 1850s. A. Hartman is recognized as the first of these migrants to arrive in 1851. In 1861, the Cuban portrait photographer Francisco de Rojas arrived in Santo Domingo and settled in the capital city. In 1872 the Puerto Rican photographer Juan de Torreforte arrived in Puerto Plata, where he opened a shop in 1875. Throughout the final two decades of the 19th century several immigrants arrived in the country and set up shops that helped train the eventual first class of dominican born photographers.

Self portrait with Duarte bust by Abelardo R. Urdaneta (1913-1914)

Black and white photograph. Image: Ylonka Nacidit-Perdomo, via Jeannette Miller.

Notable Photographers From The Dominican Republic

Epifanio Billini (1820 - 1891), born in Santo Domingo. Considered the father of Dominican Photography.

Julio Aybar (???? - ????), born in Monte Cristi. He opened photography studios in Montecristi, Santiago, Puerto Plata, Moca and San Pedro de Macorís.

Julio Pou (1862 - 1940), born in Santo Domingo. Pou is remembered for his portraits of President Ulises Heureaux (1845 - 1899).

Abelardo Rodríguez Urdaneta (1870 - 1933), born in Santo Domingo. Most prolific of the early photographers. Urdaneta is credited with many portraits, but is most remembered for his self-portraits, and credited with the first photographic self-portrait in the country.

Gregorio ‘Gollito’ Fernández (18 ?? - ????), born in La Vega. One of the first photographers whose documentation is found in La Vega. He practiced photography in his hometown in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Gabriel Ornes (18??-????), born in Puerto Plata, where he had an establishment. Along with Ramón Mella he mounted one of the first studios in 1907, Ornes & Co.

Francisco Palau (1879 - 1937), born in Santo Domingo. He opened Palau Photography in Santo Domingo, and founded an illustrated magazine called "Blanco y Negro" (Black and White), 1908 - 1930, which not only published artistic photographs, but articles on art and photography techniques. Palau is considered one of the founders of Dominican cinema.

Luis E. Mañón (1881-1977), was born in Santo Domingo. He was a friend of Abelardo Rodríguez Urdaneta, already in 1916 he published his landscapes in the miscellaneous magazine Renaissance.

Bienvenido Gimbernard (1883-1971), born in Santo Domingo. Cartoonist, editor, writer and photographer. He was director of the Cosmopolita magazine, the one he founded in 1919. During the first American intervention (1916-1924), he created the character Concho Primo, a nationalist peasant.

Dr. luis Mañón Valdez (1914-1992). He was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He learned photography with his father, Luis E. Mañón, and carried out relief photographic work, mostly landscapes in black and white. In November 1968 he participated in the Autumn Salon of Photography that was exhibited at the Palace of Fine Arts in Santo Domingo.

Max Pou (1925 - 2007), born in Santo Domingo. Documentary filmmaker and photographer, son of Julio Pou.

Juan Pérez Terrero (1933 - 2016), born in Santo Domingo. Known as the 'April Photographer,' Terrero is remembered for his documentary photography covering the 1965 American invasion.

Natalio Puras Penzo (1934 - 2010), born in Santiago, better known as Apeco. In 1961, he opened the photo studio Foto APECO in Santiago. In 1962, he presented his first solo exhibition at the opening of the campus of the Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra (UCMM) of Santiago, and was director of the Photography Department Dominican Broadcasting for 10 years (1968 - 1978).

Domingo Batista was born in Santiago de los Caballeros, in 1946. He is considered to be a pioneer of contemporary photography in the Dominican Republic. His work represents the colorful, rich tropical environment with vast landscapes of that Caribbean island.

Polibio Díaz (1952), born in Barahona. He studied photography at the University of Texas A&M, USA, where he graduated in Civil Engineering.

Ricardo Briones (1958), born in Santo Domingo. Conservation Photographer with a focus on natural and urban landscapes.

Eladio Fernandez (1966), born in Santo Domingo. Conservation Photographer, he is an Associate Fellow in the International League of Conservation Photographers, secretary of the board of Fundación Progressio and treasurer of the board of Fondo Peregrino RD. He is a naturalist, author, editor of photography and illustrated children’s books.

Sculpture in the Dominican Republic

The process of carving, modeling, or assembly of objects such as wood, stone, shell, fibers and clay has existed in the island of Hispaniola since the settling of the Taino indians. Unlike modern and contemporary sculpture, the Tainos created these objects for purposes of worship. But we can assume that some objects may have been formed for the purpose of entertainment, such as dolls for kids.

In regards to sculpture as art, the arrival of european settlers beginning in the 15th century also introduced 'pictorial and sculptural production which followed the guidelines of European academics fluctuating between the romantic and neoclassical style.' As with painting, proper recording of artistic sculptures produced in the Dominican Republic starts in the final decades of the 19th century and many if not most of the works created during this time may be lost. It is also during this time that the first artists that look to sculptures as an artform are born; such as Abelardo Rodriguez Urdaneta (June 24, 1870 - 1933), considered the first artist to truly excel as a sculptor. Along with Abelardo, another important artist of the time, Luis Desangles (8 February 1861, Santo Domingo - 13 April 1940, Santiago de Cuba), was also celebrated for his sculpted creations; such as his bust of Juan Pablo Duarte.

Juan Pablo Duarte bust by Luis Desangles (1900-1905)

Juan Pablo Duarte bust, Luis Desangles
Plaster on patina. 99 x 77 x 33 cm. Image: PBT Photo, Flickr

Notable Dominican Sculptors

Luis Desangles (1861-1940), painter, and sculptor, first artist of great importance in the Dominican Republic. Desangles comes under the tutelage of Leon Cordero in the year 1870, and continues his lessons until Cordero's death in 1874.

Abelardo Rodriguez Urdaneta (1870-1933), multidisciplinary artist, born in Santo Domingo. Considered the first great sculptor of the era—he was also a musician, a poet and one of the first nationally recognized photographers.

Celeste Woss y Gil (1890-1985), is the first woman recognized as an important figure of the national artistic identity—a painter, sculptor and educator. The first female master-painter, she was born in Santo Domingo, the daughter of Alejandro Woss y Gil, who served briefly as president of the Dominican Republic in 1903

José Antonio Espínola Reyes (Pío) (11 June 1898 - 19??), was born in La Vega. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Paris and he visited academies and museums in Spain, Germany and Italy. He was a sculptor, engraver and goldsmith. He made his name at the Provincial Exhibition of La Vega in 1926 with his sculptures, Misery, Quisqueya Encadenada, Desesperación, El Loco, busts of Hostos and de Mella.

Ismael López Glass (April 17, 1890 - 19??) was born in Santo Domingo. At just thirteen he worked as a shoemaker, then attended the workshops of Abelardo Rodríguez Urdaneta and Francisco González Lamarche, where he practiced sculpture.

Ramón Oviedo (February 7, 1924 - July 12, 2015), born in Barahona, this artist is remembered today for his dark abstract and figurative paintings. But he was also a very gifted sculptor.

Gaspar Mario Cruz (May 6, 1925 - September 8, 2006), was born in San Francisco de Macoris. At an early age he begins to produce figures of religious saints with modeling clay, and during his teenage years he begins to explore Woodcarving. In 1948 he moved to Santo Domingo and enrolled in the National School of Fine Arts, under the direct guidance of the Spanish born artist and sculptor, Manolo Pascual. In 1956, Cruz won the First Prize for Sculpture at the VIII Biennial of Art with his work Llanto de Baquiní.”

Luis Martínez Richiez (1928-2005), known as Luichy to the art community, was born in San Pedro de Macoris, a province in the south-eastern region of the Dominican Republic. He began his studies under sculpture with Manolo Pascual, and painting with José Gausach and Celeste Woss y Gil, at the National School of Fine Arts in Santo Domingo, where he would later become a professor.

Domingo Liz, sculptor, painter and illustrator, was born in Santo Domingo on September 11, 1931. He died on February 14, 2013.

Jose Ramon Rotellini, born 1941, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He is a graduate of the National School of Fine Arts.

José Nicolás Jiménez (1945 - 19 ??) was born in Salcedo. He studied at the National School of Fine Arts in the period (1963-1969). He won several school awards in drawing (1964) and sculpture, consecutively, in 1966, 1967 and 1969. Upon graduation, he continued training at the University of Perugia, studying sculpture and industrial ceramics, and also at the State Institute of Art, in Florence , Italy.

Vicente Fabre (1946) was born in La Vega, Dominican Republic. His artistic training began in 1966 with maestro Elias Delgado and Mario Lockward at the school of Fine Arts in his hometown, where he later worked as a teacher for several years.

Freddie Cabral (March 14, 1948), was born in Santo Domingo. He studied at the Apec School of Arts and studied Architecture at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD). Then he would train in Paris and Cuba and live in the United States.

Johnny Bonnelly was born 1951, in Santiago. He studied architecture at the Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña in Santo Domigo, and Urbanism at the University of Paris 8 in Vincennes, France.

Amaya Salazar (1951), born in Santo Domingo. Painter and sculptor, began her studies in Santo Domingo and then continued in Spain and the United States.

José Ignacio Morales "El Artístico" (April 29, 1957 - April 14, 2020), was born in La Romana, Dominican Republic.

Delio Jose Garcia Alvarado (19??) is a self-taught sculptor from San Francisco de Macoris, Dominican Republic. "El Artista del Reciclaje" (the Recycling Artist), Gracia creates his art from wood and recycled items found throughout his home and the surrounding cities.

José Sejo (1958) was born in San José de Ocoa. He studied Advertising Arts at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, Restoration of Altarpieces at the Primada de América Cathedral, Serigraphy at the Museo de Arte Moderno, among others.

Roberto Herrera was born October 9, 1960, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Thelma Leonor Espinal, born 1976, in the city of Santiago, Dominican Republic. She is a graduate of the Altos de Chavon School of Design, and the School of Fine Arts in Santiago de los Caballeros. Thelma also holds a Bachelors Degree in Marketing from PUCMM University and post graduate studies in Cultural Management by The Ministry of Cuba and the University of Santo Domingo (UASD).

Ramiro Matos (1977) was born in Azua. He trained under Antonio Prats-Ventós. Reached the Third Prize for Sculpture at the Biennale Nacional de 1974 and the first at the XIV Biennial (1979). Initially he works wood carving in an abstract style, then he supports industrial resources.

Cristian Michel Lora (b. 1987) is from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Studied Advertising and Illustration in the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD), and Visual Arts in the National School of Fine Arts Santo Domingo.

The Spanish Exiles and The National School of Fine Arts (1939 - 1942)

The National School of Fine Arts in Santo Domingo (ENAV), was inaugurated on August 19, 1942. Founded under the General Directorate of Fine Arts, which was created by Law 311 of July 19, 1940. It is the first state sponsored national institution created specifically for artistic development during the Trujillo era.

The school's first director was the Spanish sculptor Manolo Pascual, with Celeste Woss and Gil, Josep Gausachs and George Hausdorf as some of the first instructors.

Pascual, Gausachs and Hausdorf were members of a group of European artists that found themselves exiled in the Dominican Republic because of the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939). Other notable members of this group of exiles include; Ángel Botello Barros, Eugenio Fernández Granell, Antonio Prats Ventós, Francisco Vázquez Díaz “Compostela”, José Vela Zanetti and Alfonso Vila “Shum."

Many of these Spanish artists found success in the country through their work. But it was Jose Vela Zanetti (1913 - 1999) that made the biggest impression in the country with his murals and paintings depicting local themes.

The arrival of the Spanish exiles marked an artistic renaissance period for the Dominican Republic—regardless of Trujillo's reasons for accepting the exiles.

The Third Generation / First Contemporaries

This period includes artists born after 1940 and whose artistic flourishing takes place between 1950 - 1980.

Norberto Santana (1943), born in Santo Domingo. Graduated from the National School of Fine Arts (1963). He expanded his training in Spain, completing his studies with Jaime Colson.

Danilo de los Santos (1943), born in Puerto Plata. An artist and art historian. His Memoria de la Pintura Dominicana is an eight volume opus chronicling the history of art in the Dominican Republic; and the source for most of what you read in this article 😊.

Roberto Flores (1949), born in Santo Domingo. He enrolled at the National School of Fine Arts in 1966, where he received direct instruction from professors Pedro Villena, Domingo Liz and Jaime Colson, among others.

Alberto Ulloa (January 1, 1950 - October 1, 2011), born in Puerto Plata. He studied painting at the National School of Fine Arts and graduated in 1974. He was a student of Jaime Colson and Domingo Liz.

Elsa Núñez (1950) born in Santo Domingo. She is a graduate of the National School of Fine Arts in Santo Domingo, and the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Spain.

Fernando Ureña Rib (1951 - 2013), born in La Romana. He began his painting studies at the School of Fine Arts of San Francisco de Macoris in 1963. He received a scholarship to study at the National School of Fine Arts in 1968, where he studied under Jaime Colson.

José García Cordero (1951), born in Santiago de los Caballeros. He studied at the School of Architecture (UASD), in Santo Domingo, and attended the Workshop of Hernández Ortega in Santo Domingo.

Amaya Salazar (1951), born in Santo Domingo. Painter and sculptor, began her studies in Santo Domingo and then continued in Spain and the United States.

Rafael de Lemos was born in 1951, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He is a graduate of the Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña.

Alberto Lestrad (1952), born in Santo Domingo. He began painting at a young age, having his first solo exhibition at the age of 14 under the guidance of Ramon Oviedo.

Carolina Cepeda Mendez was born on April 13, 1952, in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic. She studied painting and drawing at the National School of Fine Arts in Santiago in 1966.

Iris de Mondesert was born on April 13, 1954, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She is an architect, jewelry designer, illustrator and teacher.

Tomasina Tapia (1955), born Santo Domingo, graduate of the National School of Fine Arts. Lives and works in Mexico.

Said Musa (1956), born in Santo Domingo. Painter, sculptor and muralist, he studied under Jaime Colson.

Mariojosé Angeles (1965), born in Santo Domingo. In 1982, he began to study architecture at UASD. After having completed three and a half years in the program, he starts to study painting under Guillo Pérez.

Silvio Avila (1966), born in La Romana. Graduate of UASD and the National School of Fine Arts.

Scherezade Garcia (1966), born in Santo Domingo. She is a painter, printmaker and installation artist.

The Institutions

The opening of the National School of Fine Arts in 1942 marks an important moment of art history in the Dominican Republic—before this period, art depended on local schools, galleries and artist workshops to promote and preserve artistic works and the training of future artists.

ENAV is the first national effort created under the General Directorate of Fine Arts—this is followed by The Palace of Fine Arts, which houses The National Theater, The National School of Visual Art, National Folkloric Ballet, National Choir, National Dance School, the office of the National Symphony Orchestra, National Classical Ballet, School of Dramatic Art, The Fine Arts Theater and the National Dance School.

In 1964, the first Eduardo León Jimenes Art Contest takes place with the intention of promoting the development of visual arts and stimulate creativity in the new generations of artists. This effort is led by members of the Leon Jimenes family of the Grupo León Jiménes consortium.

In 1976, the Galería de Arte Moderno opens at the Plaza de la Cultura “Juan Pablo Duarte” in Santo Domingo. Renamed the Museum of Modern Art in 1992.

In 1982, Altos de Chavon, a re-creation of a Mediterranean style European village located atop the Chavón River in La Romana, opens for a business. In 1983, the Altos de Chavon School of Design opens to students from around the world.

In 1999, the Bellapart Museum opens it's doors in Santo Domingo. The first private museum dedicated to art created in the Dominican Republic. The Bellapart collection includes more than 2,000 works.

In 2003, the Centro Cultural Eduardo León Jimenes opens its doors in Santiago de los Caballeros. The center serves as a museum, housing historical and contemporary works, and an educational cultural center for the Dominican community and tourist. In the same year, Centro Leon publishes the first of eight volumes of Memoria de la Pintura Dominicana by Danilo de los Santos.

The New Generation / Notable Artist Of The New Generation

This period includes artist born in and after 1970 and through the 1990s. This is the group that will influence the generation of artists in the new millennium.

Iliana Emilia Garcia (1970), born in Santo Domingo. She received her AAS from Altos de Chavon/The School of Design in 1989, and a BFA in Communication Design from Parsons The School of Design in 1991.

Citlally Miranda (1970), born in Santo Domingo. Multidisciplinary artist: drawing, painting, photography, performance, video, installations, and other mediums.

Leonardo Sanz ( 6 de abril de 1971 - 20 de julio de 2017), born in Santo Domingo. Began his life as an artist at a very young age, winning his first award when his was only 10 years old. Studied at Altos de Chavon School of Design. In 1992, he travels to Japan to study illustration.

Kilia Llano (1971), born in Santo Domingo. Painter and muralist, studied at the Altos De Chavón School Of Design, and then Parson School Of Design.

Patricia Castillo (Patutus) was born in 1972, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Graduated from the Fine Arts and Illustration career at the Altos de Chavón School of Design in La Romana and from the Fine Arts career at the Federico Chopin School in Bogotá, Colombia.

Tania Marmolejo (1975), born in Santo Domingo. She studies Graphic Design and Illustration in Norway, and returns to the Dominican Republic to study Fine Arts at the Altos de Chavón School of Design.

Samuel Gomez (1975), born in Santo Domingo. He is a graduate of The Altos de Chavon School of Design (1997), with distinction, and was awarded a full scholarship to the Parsons School of Design.

Ney Díaz Henríquez (1975 - 2015), born in Santo Domingo. A graduate of the National School of Fine Arts, APEC, and the Altos de Chavon School of Design.

Thelma Leonor Espinal was born in 1976, in the city of Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic. She graduated from the Altos de Chavón School of Design and the Santiago School of Fine Arts.

José Pelletier (1976), born in Santo Domingo. Studied art at the Liceo Musical Pablo Claudio, in San Cristóbal, and at the National School of Fine Arts.

Junior Reyes Ocre (1976), born in María Trinidad Sánchez. Started his art career at a young age, winning his first award at 9 years old. He studied art the School of Fine Arts in San Francisco de Macoris, and at the School of Fine Arts in Santiago.

Watson Pablov (1976), was born in 1976 in the María Trinidad Sánchez province. He studied graphic design at ITESA.

Fermín Ceballos (1978), born in San Cristóbal. Multidisciplinary artist, graduated from the National School of Fine Art in Santo Domingo in 1998.

Oscar Abreu (1978), born in San Juan de la Maguana. He studied art in his hometown, Spain and in the United States.

Gustavo Peña (1979), born in Santo Domingo. He studied at the Altos de Chavon School of Design and at Parsons in New York City.

Melissa Mejía-Rizik was born in 1979, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She graduated with honors from the Altos de Chavón School of Design, where she studied Fine Arts and Illustration.

Rafael de los Santos (Poteleche) (1981), born in Santo Domingo. Graffiti artist, doodler and DJ.

Niurka Guzman Otañez (1981), born in Santo Domingo. A graduate of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Guzman lives and works in Mexico City.

Firelei Báez was born in 1981, in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic. She obtained an M.F.A. from Hunter College and a B.F.A. from The Cooper Union School of Art and studied at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.

Paula Saneaux (1981), born in Santo Domingo. B.A. summa cum laude in Advertising, APEC University, Santo Domingo, A.A. summa cum laude and valedictorian in Fine Arts & Illustration, Altos De Chavón School of Design, B.F.A. with Honors in Fine Arts, Parsons The New School Of Design, New York.

Kamalky Laureano (1983), born in Santo Domingo. Hyper - realism artist, studied at the Altos de Chavon School of Design.

Hulda Guzmán Conde, born on February 15, 1984, in the city of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She studied visual arts and illustration at the Altos de Chavón School of Design, and photography and mural painting at the National School of Arts in Mexico.

Anilcia de Luna was born in 1984, in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic. She is an architect, muralist and visual artist.

Gaby D'Alessandro was born in 1986, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She studied Fine Arts and Illustration in Altos de Chavón and received a scholarship to the Parsons School of Design, where she received a BFA in Illustration.

Joiri Minaya was born in 1990, in New York, USA. USA, grew up in the Dominican Republic. She graduated from the National School of Visual Arts in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic (2009), the Altos de Chavón School of Design (2011) and Parsons, the New School of Design (2013).

Marie Jiménez was born in 1991, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. A multidisciplinary artist, Marie studied art at the Altos de Chavón School of Design and Parsons School of Design.

The Missing Names & Credit where it's due

The names missing from the lists included in this article are many. If you are unhappy at the exclusion of a specific artist, please understand that these exclusions are not deliberate for it would be impossible to catalog all the names of people that create art either as a hobby or career. Names will continue to be added as they become available. I strongly encourage anyone that has a name that they feel belongs on this list to please submit it. A list truly representative of the history and the artists would be impossible to complete, as history never stops.

This article is only meant to be an introduction to Dominican art and produced with the idea that the reader would be inspired by what he or she read and decide to further research an artist or period.

Please be aware that "History consists of making arguments about what happened in the past on the basis of what people interpreted and recorded (in written documents, cultural artifacts, or oral traditions) at the time." Therefore, it is possible that erroneous information may have been used in the creation of this article. If you find something in need of correction please do not hesitate to contact me with the detail.

Most of what you have read has been compiled from the works of these historians; Danilo de los Santos, Jeannette Miller, Myrna Guerrero, Cándido Gerón and many more that may not have been properly credited in the publications read. There are also the efforts from various institutions that have helped to preserve the history; Centro Leon, Museo Bellapart, Museum of Modern Art (MAM), Banco Popular Dominicano and many more, including the Dominican government. And not to forget, the artists themselves. If you find that your work may have been used in this publication and not properly credited, please contact me.

This publication was updated on June 13, 2020.

About the author

Leony Paulino (b. 1982) is from La Loma de la Joya in the Duarte province. He was born in the city of San Francisco de Macoris. He lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Leony Paulino