Off for the Honeymoon / Yendo a la luna de miel, 1918–1925
Pedro Figari, Uruguayan, 1861–1938
Oil on particle board
27 1/8 × 39 1/16 in. (68.9 × 99.2 cm)
Gift of Mrs. Augusta Jones
Habits of Mind
- OBSERVE DETAILS Observe details / time to think and reflect
Off for the Honeymoon
Discussion through works of art encourage how to approach ambiguous and complex ideas, thoughts, and feelings. The MFAH offers a democratic space where students and teachers can develop, practice and articulate these habits of mind. Remember that the quality of the conversation is what is important, not finding the artist’s “answer.” Slow down and take the time to make careful observations. Talk about what you notice, and try to avoid jumping to conclusions and interpretations. Be sure to give enough time for silent looking and thinking.
Connecting to the Work of Art
Pedro Figari was born in Montevideo, in the Rio de la Plata region of Uruguay. In 1921, at the age of 60, after a long and distinguished career as a lawyer, statesman, and writer, Figari dedicated himself entirely to painting. In search of a wider audience for his art, he moved to Buenos Aires in 1921 and Paris in 1925. His work received great acclaim in both cities. In 1934 he returned to Montevideo, where he lived for the remainder of his life.
Before becoming a full-time painter, Figari wrote extensively on art and aesthetics, publishing his three-volume study Arte, Estética, Ideal (Art, Aesthetic, Ideal) in 1912. Figari fully developed his artistic style in Uruguay before spending nearly ten years in Paris. There, he especially admired the works of the Post-Impressionist artists Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard, with whom he became friends. However, all of Figari’s paintings focus exclusively on life in the region of Rio de la Plata and on people of all socioeconomic backgrounds living in both the city and the countryside.
The subject of this painting is a bride and groom’s departure for their honeymoon. Figari shows a large group of Afro-Uruguayans gathered in the courtyard of a multifamily building, the kind that housed servants on large estates in Uruguay. At the very center of the painting, the bride, wearing a voluminous white gown, warmly embraces another woman. Others around the bride, including the groom in a top hat, bid their fond farewells. Several onlookers gesture enthusiastically. The festive crowd, including two women watching from a balcony, is dressed in its best. Though intimately set in the confines of a courtyard, the full moon in the sky connects this scene to the wider world.
The repetition of great sweeping arabesques throughout the painting, especially the shape formed by the bride’s long skirt, creates a visual rhythm that suggests lively movement. These curving lines, together with the bright colors and careful attention to the richly patterned clothing, emphasize the vigor of Afro-Uruguayan culture and the familial emotions of the wedding party. Figari’s brush-strokes, usually short and irregular, go in all directions, creating a rich surface texture that adds to the abundant expression of vitality in this work.
Figari was the first Uruguayan artist, and one of the first in Latin America, to celebrate the culture of Latin Americans of African descent. At the turn of the century, Montevideo had a small but strong Afro-Uruguayan community. Many of its oldest members and leaders were former slaves born in Africa. They helped the community preserve aspects of African culture, especially in the form of candombe music and dance—a subject Figari depicted in dozens of paintings. Unlike most Uruguayans, Figari had firsthand knowledge of Afro-Uruguayan culture. Perhaps this was because, as a lawyer, he often defended clients from lower socioeconomic classes, including blacks, and became familiar with Afro-Uruguayan celebrations and rites. Like many other Latin American intellectuals at the time, Figari was concerned that modernization was bringing rapid and debilitating changes. He believed that Uruguay could strengthen itself as a nation by acknowledging the virtues of marginalized groups within its borders.
- Moving from top to bottom, describe the composition. How is the space organized? How much space does each element take up?
- Look closely at the scene. What colors do you see? How do they make you feel?
- Look at the way Figari has applied the color (his brushstrokes). How would you describe it? Imagine a different way he could have applied the paint. How would that affect the mood of the painting?
- What characters are in this scene?
- Where do you think this scene is taking place? Explain why you think so.
- Often, we think of wedding colors as white and black (for the bride and groom). What colors did Figari use to portray this wedding scene? What do you think he was trying to communicate with that choice?
- Have you ever been to a wedding or another large, community/family celebration (I.e. birthdays, religious holidays, quinceañera, bar/bat mitzvah, others?) What was that like? How did you feel, what colors were there?
- Consider that the group of people in this scene—Afro-Uruguayans, c. 1920—were descended from slaves, and were marginalized in their culture. Why do you think that Figari chose to depict them in this way?
Resources Available to Order
The Learning Through Art program is endowed by Melvyn and Cyvia Wolff.
The Learning Through Art curriculum website is made possible in part by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
All Learning and Interpretation programs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, receive endowment income from funds provided by the Louise Jarrett Moran Bequest; Caroline Wiess Law; the William Randolph Hearst Foundation; The National Endowment for the Humanities; the Fondren Foundation; BMC Software, Inc.; the Wallace Foundation; the Neal Myers and Ken Black Children’s Art Fund; the Favrot Fund; and Gifts in honor of Beth Schneider.