Antonio Gattorno was something of a child prodigy; at 13 years of age he enrolled at the San Alejandro Academy in Havana, where he studied with the painter Leopoldo Romañach. At the age of 17 he won the academy's coveted five year scholarship to Europe and sailed for Spain. Eventually settling in Paris, it was in the "city of light" that he met and befriended fellow Cuban artists Victor Manuel García and Juan José Sicre. In Europe Gattorno continued his art studies; in Italy he was affected by the paintings of the early Italian Renaissance; in France the work of Paul Gauguin and art deco were profound influences. By the time he returned to Cuba in March 1927 he had developed his own visual style: monumental and simple forms, a palette of vivid colors and well balanced compositions. His subjects celebrated the landscapes and still-lifes of his nation, as well as the everyday lives of the guajiros (peasants). In 1938 Gattorno came to New York City to paint a mural for the Bacardi rum company headquarters at the Empire State Building. Between late 1939 and 1940, when he settled permanently in New York, Gattorno abandoned his Cuban themes and bold figurative style.
The Bridegroom Flees belongs to the second phase of the artist's style, which he defined as Surrealistic Romanticism and lasted until 1949. The composition depicts a moonlit landscape of hills and trees with a castle and church in the background. In the left foreground a mannequin (the female) faces an ornate mirror where an empty bride's dress is reflected. A warrior's helmet lies abandoned next to the mirror, while another mannequin (the male) flees towards the right background. Mannequins and mirrors are abundant in surrealist iconography; the first are stand-ins for humans while the second may represent illusions or a mysterious self. In this well-balanced and detailed composition the artist presents marriage as an institution to which the male must commit. Instead, the bridegroom not only flees from his bride but also from his role as warrior while glancing towards the state (castle) and church in the background. Paradoxically, Gattorno painted this work shortly after he met Isabel Cabral; they would marry in 1940 and remain together until the artist's death in 1980.
Alejandro Anreus, Ph.D.