Colonial art

The colonial art is an artistic style of such religious which was inspiration for the architecture of many hospitals , churches  and universities .

Related topics

Indian art , pre – Columbian art

What is colonial art?

Understanding it above all from the Spanish-American perspective, they dealt with all the artistic manifestations that arose between the arrival of Columbus on the continent and the independence of the colonies from the Spanish empire. It was a style with significant European influence. However, it has been observed that there has subsequently been some kind of assimilation by the colonists of the pre-Columbian arts and styles.

  • Characteristics of colonial art
  • Origin
  • History
  • Types of colonial art
  • Painting
  • Sculpture
  • Architecture
  • Colonial art by country
  • Why colonial art is predominantly religious
  • Importance
  • Representatives of colonial art
  • Plays

Characteristics of colonial art

Art in America has undergone a variety of changes. We say this, above all, because of the changes that the continent itself has also undergone. From the moment of its colonization, there were not a few transformations that the territory underwent in the religious, cultural, political and economic areas . Many argue, rather, that it was traumatic, although it is not the same as saying simple.

The arts were one of the most representative imposed aspects of this period after Columbus and his arrival. They would be all the artistic expressions that occurred between the arrival of the Europeans and the independence of Latin America . In other words, a cultural period that spanned 400 years. Some of the characteristics that distinguish it would be the following:

  • It had a highly religious component .
  • It was used as one of the most effective forms of evangelization for indigenous people.
  • Its main form of manifestation has been architecture , which was presented through hospitals , universities and churches .
  • It has a strong European roots, following styles such as the Renaissance , Baroque and Rococo .
  • His painting was originally an imitation of the European style . However, over time it was gaining signs of its own. Assimilated elements of pre-Columbian culture .


As mentioned above, colonial art has a strong European roots . Initially, the participation of indigenous or pre-Columbian arts was almost nil. Much of the colonial demonstrations were, in fact, imported. It took a long time for colonial art to assimilate more clearly aspects of the pre-Columbian arts.


The arrival of the Spanish on the continent was a period of transformation . Transformations in the political, the economic and the social . The material conditions of that historical period were profoundly altered. Originally, it could be said that they started with colonies that gradually took hold and became more complex. These formed the first captaincies and viceroyalties of the continent.

Types of colonial art

A somewhat hasty typology on this subject would be the following:

  • Renaissance: which is a posture that decides to break, opportunely, with the styles of the Middle Ages. Instead of giving such a privileged place to the divine, it is about reconnecting with humanity and nature through different stylistic productions.
  • Baroque: It consists of a very popular artistic style among the Spanish-American colonies. It was distinguished for being a movement with a tendency to excess detail, both at the level of the ornamental and the sumptuous.
  • Rococó: which, unlike the previous one, was distinguished by the use of light or pleasing elements or colors. This in order to represent the aristocratic lifestyle of the moment.


Colonial painting had the characteristic of having to its credit a significant religious component . At first, this was carried out only with the means that existed at the time, without so much influence from the European masters. This involved simple paintings with artistic representations of the Virgin Mary or Jesus Christ . Subsequently, the importation of European talent brought the influence of great artists who followed the same lines as Baroque and Rococo painting.


On the other hand, sculpture followed similar paths. Most likely, due to the extreme poverty of many of the colonist captainships and towns, it made the religious influence so important. The first sculptures followed this same line. In principle, they were only made from wood . This was also done with gold and silver motifs .


In principle, large cities were built around a church . This was due to an order issued by royalty . The Spanish attached particular importance to religious conversion . This order reached such a point that no city could be built without the first construction of a religious work. Little by little, baroque style was gaining strength in the main cities of the continent. Among the main exponents of this trend, we would have the cases of the Viceroyalty of Peru and Mexico .

Colonial art by country

The countries were not the same in colonial times as now. However, each country, despite its differences, developed its own arts. Let’s see some of the most paradigmatic examples:


It could be said that it was one of the countries with the greatest artistic production in times of viceroyalty. You can see, from the beginning, works like the first monasteries of Popocatépetl , which are an example of the Catholic influence in Europe . Or also the influence of the East, which used Mexico as a passageway to the West (such are the cases of westernized Japanese screens in the country).


Cases like painting are an example of the Chilean arts. They were not only a carbon copy of European styles, but also took into account indigenous influence.


In principle, the first expressions were also religious . It should be noted that Inca styles were displaced for a long period.


The city of Quito is a sector that even today is considered cultural heritage of humanity. Its own structure, its own design is an inheritance of the so-called Quito School . You can find large buildings that still retain their colonial style.


Which, like its neighbors, had its religious influence , Juan de Aguirre being one of the main authors of the country.


The Venezuelan case was always highly influenced by the Baroque style of Spain . Such was the influence that many of the architectural works followed this line. However, this trend was decreasing over time, giving way to styles a little more typical of the coastal nation.


Which had important artistic representatives such as Melchor Pérez de Holguín and Brother Diego de la Puente.

Why colonial art is predominantly religious

Its religious impact can be understood for the political reasons of the time; by order of royalty , it was mandatory that a church be built in each city first. The main objective of colonization was, also, the religious conversion of the natives .


The influence of unquestionable coonial art  . Even today works that survive in contemporary Latin American museums can be seen. Many of the later artistic exponents followed this colonial line , which, however, was never limited to the European tracing , but took into account the indigenous influence of the time.

Representatives of colonial art

  • Jorge de la Cruz
  • Francisco Morocho
  • Juan José Vasquez
  • Talavera de Puebla


  • Puebla Cathedral
  • Church of the company
  • The assumption of the virgin, by Luis de Riaño


Leave a Comment