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The Essence of Art

by Walter Anchico


"...Since you can imitate, Plato wanted to say, without knowing the first thing about the thing you are imitating (as Socrates sought to make plain in an infuriating dialogue with Ion the rhapsode), artists lack knowledge, they 'know' only the appearances of appearances..." (Arthur Danto)

Before defining the essence of art, first I would like to describe "the three moments of the rational mind" that have had the most influence on modern and contemporary art.
- The Theory of Evolution. Charles Darwin (1809-1882), the author of "The Origin of the Species," 1859. According to Darwin, human beings and all living species have a common origin or a "common ancestor," and they have evolved through a process of mutation. However, Darwin's theory cannot explain why monkeys, for example, have not evolved to become men. Darwin tried to find an answer to this question and developed the "natural selection" theory. It is within the process of natural selection that each species develops its evolution, a process commonly known as "the survival of the fittest." Natural selection places man as the most advanced within an evolutionary hierarchy that does not end there, for there is also a natural selection within humans.

After the invention of photography, Edward Manet and the impressionists created new means of expression and new ways of seeing the world. However, it was not until the publications of Darwin's writings and their dissemination at the end of the 19th century, that Paul Cezanne began to develop what became known as "modern art." A new religion, or a new theory, such as the theory of evolution, was needed to be able to change the spirit that had inspired Western art until the end of the 19th century.
The spirit created by Darwin's theory is the same, that in 1907 motivated Picasso to visit the Museum of Ethnology at Trocadero (Musée de l'Homme), "where he discovered African sculptures and masks" (Danto,1992,1997). Before Darwin, it was not possible to conceive that Western art could be influenced by the art of Africa; Picasso's genius consisted not in making Western art a primitive art, but that of expressing in his art work the spirit of the 20th century.

According to Elizabeth Cotton Reid, Lady Hope (1842-1922), it is Darwin himself who referred to the Theory of Evolution as a religion. Here I would like to quote what she said:
"...I made some allusions to the strong opinions expressed by many persons on the history of the creation, its grandeur, and then their treatment of the earlier chapters of the Book of Genesis. He (Charles Darwin) seemed greatly distressed, his fingers twitched nervously, and a look of agony came over his face as he said: 'I was a young man with unformed ideas. I threw out queries, suggestions, wondering all the time over everything, and to my astonishment, the ideas took like wildfire. People made a religion of them'..."

- The Theory of the Unconscious Mind (and psychoanalysis) by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). Freud's writings have also been influenced by the theory of evolution. He focused his theory on sexuality, Freud saw religion, art and all trades as a sublimation of sexual drives ("the libido"). According to his phallic conception, within a sexual evolution, the genitals of men are more evolved than those of women.
To Freud, religion was the result of infantile behavior, an illusion; a way to feel safe or to feel protected by a paternal (imaginary) figure; for example, he made a psychoanalytic study of Moses and monotheistic religion ("Moses and Monotheism: three essays," 1939). According to Freud, Moses was the product of a myth; a legendary Egyptian leader who managed to convert a crowd of Egyptians to his revolutionary and religious ideals. He tried to change polytheism in Egypt into a monotheistic religion. That it is how he went out of Egypt with all his followers and founded Judaism. Freud's theory, as with Darwin's, has had a great influence  on art, art criticism, and the philosophy of art.

- The Theory of the End of Art by the philosopher Arthur Danto (1924-2013). According to Danto, art and its history ended with the sculpture, Brillo Box, made by the pop artist, Andy Warhol, exposed at the Stable gallery in New York, in 1964, supposedly the date in which modern art was finished and post-historical, or contemporary art, started. In fact, Danto has found the "essence of art," or the answer to the philosophical question of art, with Brillo Box. After Andy Warhol and pop art resolved the question of the meaning of art, there remained nothing new to be done in art but pluralism. In other words, each artist is free to do what he wants. It is a kind of individualistic or, autobiographical art, and is what Danto called the art "after the end of art." According to Danto, "after the end of art" artists will continue to create art, because it is not art that has really ended but its history ("the historical narratives of Western art").

It is interesting that Danto could have discerned an "end of art" or its history. Even if he had not been the first, there have been other authors who have also considered an end of art or an end of its history (G.W.F. Hegel, Herve Fischer, Hans Belting, etc.). What was original about Danto's theory was his conception of an "end of art" with Brillo Box, and an "after the end of art" where contemporary art is conceived as an art where everything is possible. On the last page of his book, "Beyond the Brillo Box: The Visual Arts in Post-Historical Perspective," 1992, Danto interrogates himself and writes:
"...Something has to explain why the history of art in the West has a different history, and yields such different products, from art in India, or China, or even Japan..."

To this question, my answer is that the history of Western art began with Judeo-Christianity at the Sinai desert. At the Centre Pompidou in Paris, there is a painting titled The Adoration of the Calf (1941-1942), by Francis Picabia. This painting is a modern version of the first art work made by the Israelites in the desert of Sinai. Chapter 32 of the book of Exodus says that:
"...Aaron answered them, 'Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me'. So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool..."
This sculpture, the Golden Calf, made by the Israelites, was a representation of one of the false gods of Egypt. This first idolatrous work of art was burned by Moses. It was not until the destruction of this idol, that God commanded Moses to make a copy of the original and heavenly dwelling, theTabernacle. In fact, the tabernacle is at the origin of the architecture of churches and the art of Western civilization. Chapter 25 of the book of Exodus and chapter 8 of the book of Hebrews say:
"...Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: 'See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain'..."
hapter 35 of the book of Exodus says that God:"...has chosen make artistic designs..."

The tabernacle, commissioned by God, was made about 1200 years before Greek classical art, before Plato (428 BC - 347 BC) and his Theory of the Ideas and the concept of mimetic art. However, the history of Western art has been written as if it had started with Greek civilization. Before the Greek philosophers of antiquity, the prophets in Israel had already done manifestations similar to Marcel Duchamp's "readymades," and those of contemporary art. For example, in chapter 4 of the book of Ezekiel (sixth century BC), God said to the prophet Ezekiel:
"...Eat the food as you would a barley cake; bake it in the sight of the people, using human excrement for fuel..."

The animist masks of Africa had inspired Picasso to develop Cubism, however, it was not the first time that Africa had contributed to the cultural (and religious) issue of the West. For instance, the books of Exodus (chapters 2, 4, 18) and Numbers (chapter 12) say that Moses was married with an Ethiopian woman (cushite or black) with whom he had two sons, Gershom and Eliezer.
The book of Acts (chapter 8) says that one of the first converts to Christianity (before its spreading in Europe) was an Ethiopian, minister to the Queen of Ethiopia. There is also, in Ethiopia, a minority of black Jews called Falasha, or Beta Israel. Currently most of the Falashas have emigrated to Israel.

It is true, as it was discerned by Arthur Danto and others, art will come to an end, and there will also be an art "after the end of art". However, it will no longer be a copy or an art mimetic, but it will be the original; the revelation of the true essence of art (the true essence of colour, sculpture and architecture). Chapter 21 of the book of Revelation says:

"...The city was laid out like a square as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia (1,367 miles) in length, and as wide and high as it was long. ...The wall was made of jasper and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second saphire, the third chalcedony, the forth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass..."



An Anthology of the Evolution Theory: The Voyage of the Beagle, 1839. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of favoured Races in the Struggle for life, 1859. Thales of Miletus, Alfred Russel Wallace, Herbert Spencer, Thomas Henry Huxley, John Tyndall. (Ed. 1986...? Bibliography lost).

An Anthology of the Work of Sigmund Freud. (Ed. 1986...? Bibliography lost).

Belting, Hans. L'histoire de l'art est-elle finie?: histoire et archéologie d'un genre (The End of the History of Art?). Paris: traduit de l'allemand et de l'anglais par Jean-François Poirier et Yves Michaud, Editions Gallimard, 2007.

Belting, Hans. Image et Culte: une histoire de l'image avant l'époque de l'art (Likeness and presence: a history of the image before the era of art). Paris: traduit de l'allemand par Frank Muller, Editions du Cerf, 1998.

Cotton, Elizabeth R., (Lady Hope). Article on Lady Hope's meeting with Charles Darwin. Boston: published on the Watchman-Examiner newspaper, 15 August, 1915. Source: Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia, 2014 (licence CC-BY-SA 3.0).

Danto, Arthur Coleman. The Transfiguration of the Commonplace: a philosophy of art. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University press, 1981.

Danto, Arthur Coleman. Beyond the Brillo Box: the visual arts in post-historical perspective. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1992.

Danto, Arthur Coleman. After the End of Art: contemporary art and the pale of history. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University press, 1997.

Danto, Arthur Coleman. The Madonna of the Future: essays in a pluralistic art world. New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2000.

Danto, Arthur Coleman. Hegel's End of Art Thesis; 1999.

Fischer, Hervé. L'Histoire de l'art est terminée. Paris: Editions Balland, 1981.

Fischer, Hervé. L'avenir de l'art. Montreal: VLB Editions, 2010.

Freud, Sigmund. L'homme Moïse et la religion monothéiste: trois essais (Moses and Monotheism: three essays). Paris: Traduit de l'allemand par Cornélius Heim; préface de Marie Moscovici. Editions Gallimard, 1993.

Hegel, Georg Wilhem Friedrich. Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Arts. (Spanish version translated from german...bibliography lost).

The Holy Bible, New International Version. Colorado Springs: International Bible Society, 2000.


Paris, March 10, 2014  (Translated from the original in french  04/22/2014)

(Quotations are from the originals in english)

© Walter Anchico 2014




Salon of New Realities 2013 - Paris

by Walter Anchico


The Salon of New Realities (Salon des Réalités Nouvelles) is the salon of abstract art. Most of the artwork2  Composition avec ruban adhesif gris   acrylique   ruban adhesif et adhesif de masquage sur toile   Copyright W ANCHICO 2013 comes from hot abstraction (lyrical abstraction, tachisme, informal art, matierisme, abstract expressionism etc.). Other works come from cold abstraction (concrete art or geometric abstraction). To be able to understand this division, one has to refer to the origins of the salon.

The abstraction known as "geometric art," which was not derived from Cubism, and was not inspired from nature, was not well received in France. The rejection and contempt expressed by the general public, and by the official cultural establishment, forced abstract artists to create groups and to publish magazines.

In 1929, the Belgian critic Michel Seuphor and the Latin American artist Joaquin Torres-Garcia founded the group, and the magazine, Cercle et Carré (Circle and Square). In 1930, Seuphor organized an exhibition of the group's members. He invited the painter Theo Van Doesburg to write an article in the magazine Cercle et Carré. Van Doesburg declined the invitation. He was opposed to the diversity of styles shown at the exhibition. That same year, Van Doesburg founded the group, Art Concret (Concrete Art), and published a magazine with the same name. Cercle et Carré and Art Concret did not last. The group Art Concret was dissolved after Theo Van Doesburg's death in 1931.

Between 1931 and 1937, artists of Cercle et Carré, and Art Concret, created the association Abstraction-Creation. Among its founders and members were artists such as, J. Arp, Delaunay, Gleizes, Helion, Herbin, Kupka, Vantongerloo, and Sophie Taeuber-Arp. However, several artists left the association due to disagreements and the rigor of geometric abstraction (John Arp, for example, was simultaneously a member of the group Abstraction-Creation and the surrealist group).

In 1939, the antiquary and art dealer Frédo Sidès, and the critic Yvanhoé Rambosson organized the exhibition "Réalités Nouvelles" ("New Realities") at the Charpentier gallery in Paris. This exhibition is at the origin of the first Salon of New Realities. It seems that the expression "new realities" was used for the first time in 1912 by Guillaume Apollinaire. In his book"Aesthetic Meditations," Apollinaire made reference to the paintings of the "peintres nouveaux" to describe abstract art. 

The first Salon of New Realities opened its doors during the summer of 1946 at the Palais des Beaux Arts de la Ville de Paris (the Palace of Fine Arts of the City of Paris). Using the expression "New Realities," Sidès tried to bring together the common points that were found in the different styles within abstract art. The Salon was subtitled "Abstract art, concrete, constructivist, nonfigurative." It was dedicated to the memory of deceased artists (Robert Delaunay, W. Kandinsky, P. Mondrian, Theo Van Doesburg, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, and the critic Yvanhoé Rambosson) whose art works were exhibited. Several living artists had been members of the association Abstraction-Creation. Several others had participated in the exhibition of 1939, at the Charpentier gallery, such as, John Arp, Sonia Delaunay, del Marle, Suzanne Duchamp, Hans Hartung, Herbin, Picabia, Laloux, and Serge Poliakoff, etc. The Salon exhibited the works of 89 artists; nearly 400 paintings and sculptures dating from 1910 to 1946. Today, all the trends of abstraction are represented at the Salon. There are also abstract works inspired from the figure, or inspired from nature, and even the margins of abstraction.

According to an American critic, "After Jacson Pollock, nothing new has been done in painting." I question if the new technologies, and new means of artistic expression, will replace painting in the future. I ask this question, not in a relativist context but within an evolutionary context of painting. For example, to say that art, or the history of art, were finished with the sculpture Brillo Box by Andy Warhol, or with pop art, is like saying that there is another "narrative," in addition to the historic and modernist narratives.

I consider that there are aesthetic concepts that cannot be expressed with the new means or mediums of artistic expression, excluding painting. Art history can attest to this fact. After the invention of photography, in 1826, painting was forced to find, paradoxically, and thanks to the new technologies, other means of expression and innovation.

In my recent work, I seek to create my paintings within a two dimensional (2-D) space and an "empty space," a nonconventional space. The Dadaists and the Surrealist artists, and the spatialism (of Lucio Fontana) have already experimented with this concept. However, they did not conceive it as a two dimensional pictorial space, but as a three dimensional (3-D) space. Yet, this process in my paintings is not an end but a means, with the aim of going further from what has already been done.



Apollinaire, Guillaume. Les Peintres cubistes: méditations esthétiques: Paris, Éditions Bartillat, 2013.

Art Concret, revue, numéro unique, Paris, avril 1930.

Orgeval Domitille, d, L'histoire du Salon des Réalités Nouvelles de 1946 à 1956, (Thèse sous la direction de Serge Lemoine), Paris, Le Journal des Arts n° 180/ novembre, 2003, (Texte intégral consultable sur le site web,

Ponticelli  Géraldine, Salon des Réalités Nouvelles, consultable sur le blog Ponticelli dell'arte.

Moszynska Anna, L'Art abstrait (Abstract Art), Paris, Éditions Thames & Hudson, 1998.


Paris, November 12, 2013  (Translated from the original in french).

© Walter Anchico 2013





Walter Anchico: Artworks 2009-2011


Walter Anchico was born in Buenaventura, Colombia, and was destined to follow a career in adExpo2009 2011ministration. However, in 1979, while enrolled at the Autonoma University of Madrid, visits to some of Europe's major museums soon changed the direction of his career plans. He withdraw from his studies at the university and enrolled in drawing and painting classes at the Arjona Studio. Subsequently, in 1980, he transferred to the United States to continue his studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The great amount of creative freedom, in both form and colour given to students, had a profound influence on his work. Between figuration and abstraction, Walter Anchico seeks to transcend reality.

Walter Anchico has held exhibitions of his work in Colombia, in the United States and in Paris. He has likewise taught fine arts in several universities in Colombia and in England.

With residency established in Le Havre between 2007 and 2010, Walter Anchico was able to take courses in art history and print making at the School of Art. He was inspired by the landscape of the coast, especially the cliffs, to do a series of paintings and collages.(,3981.html)

The exhibition is open from the 5th to the 26th of November 2011. Carré du THV, Theater of the City Hall, Esplanade Jacques Tournant, Le Havre.

Department of Communication of the City of Le Havre - 10 - 2011 © Walter Anchico


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Artworks 2009-2011, solo show of paintings. Carré du THV, Le Havre.




Walter Anchico: Manglares at the CED 13 (May 14-29, 2011)

by Simone Balazard


At the side of magnificent museums and prestigious art galleries that Paris, a big capital city, has to offer its inhabitants, there are also a number of small, friendly, and pleasant places, where people can meet in an atmosphere of friendship and feast their eyes on the sights, listen to lectures, or meet artists. CED 13 is one of those friendly places. Conviviality, exchanges, and diversity is its motto. Several times a year, it offers exhibitions of art works signed by the artists of the area.

This spring, Walter Anchico, a painter born in Buenaventura, Colombia, will exhibit his work entitled Manglares (mangroves). This work was inspired by the landscapes of the Pacific coast of Colombia, where he lived for many years. This origin enlightens us a bit, but it should not prevent the confrontation, simply put, between a painted surface and the subject matter, given that they are abstract paintings whose figurative starting point might probably be different, or even absent.

The exhibition is in two rooms: The first, where paintings of both large and medium formats are shown side by side. In the second room, there are etchings and smaller formats. Many visitors have preferred this second room.

The larger paintings offer compositions of sinuous tangled lines. More often than not, their colours will be blue or black, and at times display a hint of yellow. The effect is quite engaging to the point that it holds one's attention with a captivating feeling, profoundly and pleasantly, invaded by a sense of beginning of the world.

After having lived, studied and worked in Spain and the United States, Walter Anchico now lives in Paris. We look forward to future exhibitions that will surely allow us to follow the development of this most interesting painter.

Simone Balazard. Director of the Jardin d'Essai (literary and artistic editorial house).


Manglares - 2011, solo show of paintings and etchings. CED 13, Paris.








Copyright © Anchico/ADAGP, Paris 2010

18 octobre 2019