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Artwork of the Week

Artwork of the Week: Open Door at the Governor's Palace

Open Door at the Governor’s Palace
Carl Oscar Borg (1879-1947), 'Open Door at the Governor's Palace,' 1909, oil on canvas, 20 3/16 x 30 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of A. Merlin Steed and Alice W. Steed Collection, 1955.

While on a voyage to Honduras in 1908, Carl Oscar Borg stopped in Antigua, Guatemala where he saw the Governor’s Palace. Built in 1550, the Palace was in a state of deterioration. The art historian Linda Jones Gibbs has argued that what Borg saw on his voyage inspired him to create this painting as a critique of the Monroe Doctrine, which emphasizes that the United States government stay out of foreign affairs. This work emphasized Borg’s opinion that the U.S. should intervene to help countries experiencing oppressive political control.

While the title of the work suggests a grand structure, Borg painted a building in shambles. Instead of a bustling center, the grounds appear mostly depopulated. A few lonely people sit outside, listless. The building was once presumably central to political and social life, but now no sense of life appears within the Palace. The exterior appears in ruins, and the bricks are exposed. Although open doors might typically signify new opportunities, Borg paints this open door as unused, even abandoned. Even though Borg attempted to shed light on the treatment of indigenous Guatemalans, Borg did so in a way that implied that they could not help themselves without U.S. intervention.

See Linda Jones Gibbs, 150 Years of American Painting, 1794–1944 (Provo: BYU Museum of Art, 1994), 162.

Guest author: Ashley Rice

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