A history of modern Cuban painting, beginning with works by the pioneering vanguardia generation through a more recent group of contemporary artists that demonstrate the significance of Cuban art of the 20th and 21st centuries — and illustrated with lots from the sales on 22-23 November
‘Modern Cuban painting, of course, is still in its infancy but is nevertheless well prepared to make a sincere and worthy effort to attain new and greater achievements in the world of plastic art,’ wrote José Gómez Sicre in his pioneering text, Cuban Painting of Today, published to coincide with the landmark exhibition Modern Cuban Painters, organized by Alfred H. Barr, Jr. for New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1944.
‘The modern movement leads the way in Cuba for all her enterprising painters to follow,’ Gómez Sicre continued, ‘and it is not surprising that an enthusiastic and able group of artists have already united to work in freedom, unhampered by the academic conceptions which have for so many years restricted the full, mature expression of art.’
The first exhibition of modern Cuban art had taken place in 1927, and the historical vanguardia emerged in its wake: Victor Manuel, Eduardo Abela, Amelia Peláez, Fidelio Ponce de León, Carlos Enríquez, and Marcelo Pogolotti. By the 1940s, the Havana School had blossomed, invigorated by the emergence of a younger generation — principal among them Cundo Bermúdez, René Portocarrero, Mario Carreño, and Mariano Rodríguez —and its more painterly, colour driven expressions of ‘lo cubano’.
The modern period culminated in the tumultuous decade of the 1950s, which saw experiments in abstraction and Surrealism by such artists as Agustín Fernández, Servando Cabrera Moreno, and José María Mijares. Cuba Moderna bears out the promise that Gómez Sicre recognized long ago, highlighting the celebrated artists of the vanguardia as well as a handful of contemporary painters who made waves in the 1980s and 1990s, once again drawing Cuban art into the international spotlight.