Art Notes

Ernesto “San” Avilés

Van der Weyden + Des San Juanes, 1969

I have more than a thousand works of art in my collection. This little painting by Salvadoran artist San Avilés is one of my favorites.

As you can see, San Avilés can display the technical skill of a classically trained master, but there are always elements in his compositions that veer from the expected. In the case of this painting (which was painted in Paris in 1969), you have a very common subject: Christ being lowered from the cross. However San Avilés’version – sensual and rich in religious symbolism but without any apparent dogmatic intent – is far from traditional.

It sits on an étagère in the billiard room outside my gallery office. It is surrounded by many larger and more imposing pieces, but it seldom fails to catch my attention when I step into that room. And when I see it, it pleases me.

Browsing visitors notice it too. I like to watch how their expressions change as they take it in. The technical mastery of the composition itself draws them to it, and the subject matter makes them think for a moment that they are looking at a Renaissance painting. But then the bits that are missing – figures to support Christ’s body and the face of his mother – tell them they are looking at a post-modern painting. One unlike anything they’ve seen before.

Or such is my interpretation of their expressions.

San Avilés is one of more than 30 modern masters featured in Central American Modernism / Modernismo en Centroamérica, a book I have been working on for nearly 10 years.

For more information on the book, contact Suzanne Brooks Snider:; (561) 512-2467