pre-Columbian god sculpture

Arts and Crafts in Nicaragua

Middle America

Art in Nicaragua

Early colonial art from the 16th-17th centuries was strongly associated with the Roman Catholic Church. Immigrant artists from Spain, Mexico, Guatemala and Quito mainly made religious art, while anonymous local artists and craftsmen made so-called mestiso art, especially known through sculptures and silver works performed in the 17th and 18th centuries. The art of Nicaragua depended for a long time on Spanish examples, even in the 19th century it was mainly religious. One innovation, however, was the portrait art, which developed as a consequence of a growing citizen class.

pre-Columbian god sculpture

A pre-Columbian god sculpture at Masaya, a volcano near Managua.

Modernism first broke through in the 1950s. Painter Armando Morales mixed abstract and figurative elements in his works. Among Morales’ contemporaries are the sculptor Fernando Saravia and the naivistic artist Asilia Guillén; the latter’s works anticipate the popular primitivist paintings of the 1970s and 1980s.

In the 1960s, the Praxis Group (1963-72) created abstract paintings based on the Nicaraguan landscape. They also focused on social and political issues caused by Somoza’s dictatorial regime. A group of primitivist painters were active from 1968, but their work was destroyed during Somoza in the late 1970s.

After the 1979 Sandinist revolution, art was revitalized. Unión Nacional de Artistas Plásticos, founded in 1980, encouraged artists to create murals and graphics.

Naivistic painting with motifs from Nicaraguan landscape and culture


The Museo de Anthropología in Managua and the Museo Juigalpa in Chontales contain important pre-Columbian collections. The Museum of Anthropology of Pre-Columbian Art in Granada (opened 1987) a collection of large basalt statues from around 800–1200 AD from the island of Zapatera. Museo Julio Cortázar del Arte Moderno de America Latina in Managua has one of Central America’s finest collections of modern art and the world’s foremost collection of Latin American art. The collection contains works by Latin American contemporary artists such as Wifredo Lam, Roberto Matta, Julio Le Parc, Jesus Soto and others, donated in solidarity with the Sandinists and Nicaraguan people, as well as major works by Nicaraguan artists such as Armando Morales and Santos Medina.

Crafts in Nicaragua

Nicaragua had a rich pottery production with multicolored goods made by local artists and craftsmen: Nicaraguagods, Nandiamegods, Lunagods and Managuagods. From the 1980s, this tradition was resumed and further developed with the support of the public. The ceramics are often inspired in different ways by pre-Columbian pottery. One of the most famous ceramics in Nicaragua today is Robert Potosme (born 1960), founder of the Quetzalcóatl Craft Cooperative in San Juan de Oriente.