• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2005

    Latin American Sale Evening Session

    28 - 29 May 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 8

    Mariano Rodríguez (Cuban 1912-1990)

    Juego (Mujeres jugando)

    Price Realised  


    Mariano Rodríguez (Cuban 1912-1990)
    Juego (Mujeres jugando)
    signed and dated 'Mariano 43' (lower left)
    oil on museum canvas panel
    24 x 18 in. (61 x 45.5 cm.)
    Painted in 1943.

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    This work is sold with a certificate of authenticity signed by Dolores and Alejandro Rodríguez dated October 28, 2002.

    Born and raised in Havana, Mariano received his earliest artistic training (after two brief unsuccessful stints at the San Alejandro Academy) with the Afro-Cuban painter Alberto Peña ("Peñita," 1897-1938) in 1935. The following year he traveled to Mexico in the company of the sculptor Alfredo Lozano (1913-1997), where he studied with the Mexican painter Manuel Rodríguez Lozano (1897-1971) and learned the fresco technique from Diego Rivera's assistant Pablo O'Higgins. He returned to Cuba in 1937 and by the end of the decade became associated with the authors and visual artists around the poet José Lezama Lima. Although a life-long communist (he had joined the party in 1934), Mariano's embrace of a neo-baroque, tropical sensibility in his paintings and drawings, was shared with the Catholic artists within the Lezama circle.

    With fellow Orígenes(1) artists Alfredo Lozano and René Portocarrero, as well as Mario Carreño and Cundo Bermúdez, Mariano belongs to the second wave of the Cuban pictorial avant-garde, which emerged in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Mariano's earliest style (1937-41) consists of massive, volumetric figures which reflect the influence of his Mexican teacher. Beginning in late 1941 to early 1942 his drawing became looser and his application of pigments more painterly. His series of gallos (roosters) belongs to this second phase. Between 1943 and 1948 it can be said that Mariano entered the third phase of his style; one where descriptive elements gave way to expressive ones, color became more intense, texture denser and drawing more rhythmic and decorative. It is in this period that Juego belongs.

    Juego depicts two females, one flesh tone, the other blue, wrestling with each other. They stand in front of the entrance of a small house surrounded by a partly visible landscape (sky and field). In its expressionistic and gestural qualities, Juego has much in common with Mujeres y plátanos and Paisaje con figuras of the same year. Like Carreño, the other heterosexual painter of this generation, Mariano enjoys painting and drawing the female form with a sensuality and grace informed by an earthy gusto. Buttocks and breasts are simply and strongly defined by a stroke of yellow ochre or salmon pink, while a series of blunt, black brushstrokes delineate a shoulder, an arm and the legs. The flexibility and playful quality of the two interlaced bodies assert both the strength and carnality of the females. The paint is applied throughout the canvas in large areas of color that are balanced between impasto sections and thinner layers, thereby activating the push and pull of the pictorial surface.(2) Juego like Matisse's work of the late 1920s, celebrates the joy of life through the dynamism of the female form.

    This painting, as Lezama Lima wrote, "gifts us a world where the most prosaic objects are metamorphosed into poetic elements . . . the painter submerges trees and flowers and human figures into a sea of unprecedented transparency and richness."(3)

    During the years 1943-48 Mariano painted some of his most significant pictures after the roosters of 1941-42; works such as Guajiros, La catedral de la Habana, Naturaleza muerta (1944, 1947, all three in the collection of the Museo Nacional in Havana), and Crucifixión (1943-44, Private collection). In these vibrant and painterly canvases the artist abandoned his earlier descriptive and sculptural style in favor of an expressive and flatter style, where color and gesture are of the essence.

    In 1949 Mariano began a fourth phase of his art, consisting of a more geometric yet still figural style, leaving behind the sensual and expressionist qualities of Juego.

    Alejandro Anreus, Ph.D.

    1) Name of the periodical and literary group that was active from 1944 until 1956, centered on the leadership of poet José Lezama Lima (1910-1976). They embraced a national identity that was defined by Catholic criollo culture and a sensual, colorful and playful redefinition of the baroque. Mariano was also involved with Espuela de plata (1939), an earlier magazine associated with the poet.
    2) Mariano was introduced to the push and pull pictorial strategy of Hans Hoffman by the American painter George McNeil (1908-95), who lived and worked in Havana in 1940. During his stay McNeil befriended Mariano as well as Portocarrero and the sculptor Lozano. I interviewed McNeil about his Cuba stay at his Brooklyn home in the Spring of 1991.
    3) J. Lezama Lima, "Todos los colores de Mariano," Orígenes, January 11, 1947. Translation from the Spanish by the author.


    Rodolfo Fernández collection, Havana.
    Private collection, Monaco.

    Saleroom Notice

    Please note the correct medium for this work is oil on commercially prepared "Museum Canvas Board" by Grumbacher, N.Y.


    Orígenes, Havana, Cuba, Spring, 1944 (illustrated).
    Carteles, Havana, Cuba, no. 25, September 1, 1944, p. 49 (illustrated).
    J. Gómez Sicre, Óleos de Mariano en el Lyceum, Havana, Cuba, 1944.
    J. Rodríguez Feo, "La obra de Mariano y su nueva estética" in Orígenes, Havana, Cuba, Fall 1944, no. 3 (illustrated).
    La Gaceta de Cuba, Havana, Cuba, 1994, no. 3 (illustrated).
    Exhibition catalogue, Mariano, una energía voluptuosa, Havana, Cuba, Galería Haydée Santamaría, Casa de las Américas, 1998, p. 39, no. 31 (illustrated in color).
    Exhibition catalogue, Mariano, Madrid, Centro Cultural del Conde Duque, 1998, p. 59, no. 11 (illustrated in color).
    D. Montes de Oca, Mariano: tema, discurso y humanidad, Sevilla, 2004, p. 67 (illustrated in color).
    Subastahabana, Havana, Cuba, 2002, lot 57, p. 64 and cover (illustrated in color).
    L. Álvarez and E. Rosa Castro, 'Hoja de ruta' in Artecubano, Havana, Cuba, 2004, no. 1, p. 19 (illustrated in color).
    Exhibition catalogue, Mariano, Montecarlo, Salle d'Exposition du quai Antoine 1er, 2004, p. 33, no. 27 (illustrated in color).
    Mariano Rodríguez: Catálogo Razonado, Vol. I, 1936-1949, Madrid, Ediciones Vanguardia Cubana, 2007, p. 129, no. 43.01 (illustrated in color).


    Havana, Cuba, Lyceum, Exposición Mariano: Óleos, 1944, no. 2.
    Havana, Cuba, Galería Haydée Santamaría, Casa de las Américas, Mariano: Una energía voluptuosa, 1998, no. 31.
    Madrid, Centro Cultural del Conde Duque, Mariano, 1998, no. 11.
    Havana, Cuba, Subastahabana, 2002, lot 57.
    Monaco, Salle d'Exposition du quai Antoine 1er, Mariano, 2004, no. 27.