We are grateful to Fundación Arte Cubano for their assistance cataloguing this work.
In the spring of 1927, the exhibition Primera Exposición de Arte Moderno was held in Havana to showcase the work of artists who had studied in Paris such as Eduardo Abela, Antonio Gattorno, Víctor Manuel, and others. Although Peláez was included in the exhibition, she had not been to the French capital and during that year she embarked on the journey with the writer Lydia Cabrera and her mother. Paris was instrumental in her artistic development and afforded her many opportunities. In Paris she immersed herself along with her companion in art studies at the École du Louvre, École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière; saw masterpieces in the great museums she visited, and in the summers travelled to other European cities in Spain, Italy, Germany, and Hungary among others. While the artist’s continued interest in still life and landscape flourished into the late 1920s, by the early 1930s she had begun to explore the human figure in elongated portraits that indicate her interest in both Old Masters such as El Greco and vanguard figures like Modigliani and Picasso.
Gundinga, 1931 now at the Museo Nacional de Cuba in Havana and the works included in this sale, Mujer con abanico (the present lot) and Mujer indú, (lot 11) date to this prolific Parisian period where in May of 1933 Peláez’s work was shown at the Galerie Zak in St. Germain, and would be critically reviewed. Critic and poet Jean Crissou wrote that her paintings were “strange and innocent apparitions.”  The exhibition which was well attended by nearly four hundred guests from Paris’s art and intellectual worlds, compiled thirty-eight works including her innovative landscapes and cubist still lifes as well as eight portraits of elongated figures whose elegance the French novelist Francis de Miomandre described as “…figures that are pure in spirit…”  Mujer con abanico and Mujer indú are such remarkable works by one of Cuba’s most revered artists.
1] Quoted in exhibition catalogue, Amelia Peláez, 1896-1968: A Retrospective, Una Restrospectiva, Miami, The Cuban Museum of Arts and Culture, 1988, p. 27.