The Cuzco School (Escuela Cuzqueña) was an artistic tradition that centered on Cuzco, Peru (the former capital of the Inca Empire) in the 17th and 18th centuries, after the 1534 Spanish conquest of the city. The Cuzco School is considered the first organized artistic center in the New World.
The Cusqueña paintings were a form of religious art whose main purpose was didactic. The Spanish, who aimed to convert the Incans to Catholicism, sent a group of religious artists to Cuzco. These artists formed a school for Amerindians and mestizos, teaching them drawing and oil painting. (The designation "Cusqueña," however, is not limited to the city of Cuzco. These artistic traditions spread to other cities in the Andes, as well as to Bolivia and Ecuador). The Cusqueña style is generally thought to have originated in the art of Inca painter Diego Quispe Tito.
Cusqueña paintings are characterized by their use of exclusively religious subjects, their lack of perspective, and the predominance of red, yellow and earth colors. They also used a lot of gold, especially with images of the Virgin Mary. Though the Cusqueño painters studied Byzantine, Flemish, Andorran and Italian Renaissance art, their works were freer than those of their European tutors: they used bright colors and distorted, dramatic images, and depicted their native flora and fauna as a backdrop in their works. As it was usual in those times, they did not use the perspective technique (an example is The Burial of Christ, which is at La Merced Convent, in Lima), but they were already beginning to include representations of children “au naturel”, in clear opposition to the angels of European origin. Most Cusqueña paintings were created anonymously because of pre-Columbian traditions that define art as communitarian.
Presently, people interested in seeing pictures of this school can visit the Lima Art Museum– which has a special room for these paintings (canvas), mainly donated by the Maecenas Pedro de Osma, and museums of other cities inside the country, especially in Cuzco. Indeed, the largest collection of paintings from the Cuzco school is in the Cathedral of San Domingo. The Inca Museum and Casa Garcilaso also gather important collections. Churches and cathedrals of colonial origin, in the coast as well as in the sierra, also store pictures of this school and allow guided tours to their installations, provided visitors maintain the necessary behavior within this kind of places.