At the turn of the 19th century, Costa Rican art
was very much associated with the social elite. It was mainly used as a social and political tool, heightening statuses or emphasizing noble ancestry. The fashion at the time was to have foreign artists paint personal portraits, and so European traditions began to infiltrate Costa Rican paintings.
Foreign artists such as Santiago Paramo, Henry Etheridge, and Bigot started to teach Costa Rican painters new techniques. This foundation enabled Costa Rican painters to flourish. The most significant Costa Rican painters of the late 19th century were: Ezequiel Jimenez Rojas, Wenceslao de la Guardia, and Enrique Echandi.
These and other young artists were encouraged and supported by the establishment of the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes
(National School of Arts) in 1897, which was under the charge of Tomas Povedano, a renowned Spanish painter. Costa Rican painting began to flourish in the early 20th century.
The painters of the past century had had to overcome difficulties, but this enabled their successors to receive an education in Art and to enjoy a larger and more generous audience for their work. Some of the most famous Costa Rican painters from the past century include Francisco Zúñiga, Teodorico Quiros, Francisco Amighetti, and Margarita Bertheau. Their work didn't just imitate European models; the Costa Rican art world finally had a life of its own
, free of its previous dependence on Europe and the elite and open to different social classes.