• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 12167

    Latin American Art

    22 - 23 November 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 53

    René Portocarrero (1912-1985)

    Paisaje de La Habana

    Price Realised  


    René Portocarrero (1912-1985)
    Paisaje de La Habana
    signed and dated 'PORTOCARRERO 61' (lower left), signed and dated again 'RENE PORTOCARRERO 1961' and titled 'PAISAJE DE LA HABANA' (on the reverse)
    oil on canvas
    28 x 35 1/8 in. (71.1 x 89.2 cm.)
    Painted in 1961.

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    We are grateful to Fundación Arte Cubano for their assistance cataloguing this work.

    Window shutters, doors, balconies and stained glass medio puntos compose the dense urban landscape of René Portocarrero’s Paisaje de La Habana. The canvas, part of a larger series of works by Portocarrero depicting the Cuban capital and artist’s hometown, projects an encyclopedic overview of Havana’s eclectic accumulation of architectural styles and details. In fact, although references to actual locations within the city may be identified – for instance, the Catedral de Havana or the Capitolio Nacional – Portocarrero’s Paisaje de La Habana is perhaps best understood as a fictionalized ode to the city, rather than a mapped landscape rooted in physical reality. In this regard, Portocarrero’s painting serves as the visual equivalent of Cuban author Alejo Carpentier’s acclaimed essay and homage to Havana, “La Ciudad de las Columnas (The City of Columns).”

    The cacophony of forms in Paisaje de La Habana speaks to the baroque trend that critics have identified as having first emerged in the 1940s in the work of such Cuban artists as Portocarrero and Amelia Peláez, among others. Painted in a rainbow of colors and stacked against the very surface of the picture plane, Portocarrero’s sinuous lines and curves interlock and create a sense of horror vacuii. Indeed, only a narrow strip of blue located just above the arched roofs and tiled cupulas is exempt from Portocarrero’s exuberantly painted details. This visual pause, which simultaneously references the sky above and the sea beyond, anchors Portocarrero’s Paisaje de La Havana as a synthesized and totalizing view of the city.

    Susanna Temkin, PhD, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University


    Marjorie Schatt collection, New York.
    Cernuda Arte, Coral Gables.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in May 2003.

    Pre-Lot Text



    F. R. Padro´n, et al., Cuban Art: Remembering Cuba through its Art, Private Collections in Exile, Volume 1, Miami, Arte al Di´a Internacional, American Art Corporation, and Padrón Publications, 2004, p. 153 (illustrated in color).
    R. Vázquez Díaz, et. al., editors, Portocarrero, color de Cuba, Havana, Ediciones Vanguardia Cubana, Fundación Alejo Carpentier, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, 2012, p. 112 (illustrated in color).
    R. Vázquez Díaz, Portocarrero: Obras escogidas, Havana, Fundación Arte Cubano, 2015, p. 373 (illustrated in color).