Carlos Enríquez (Cuban 1900-1957)
Carlos Enríquez (Cuban 1900-1957)

Carrera de caballos

Carlos Enríquez (Cuban 1900-1957)
Carrera de caballos
signed and dated 'C Enriquez 53' (lower right)
oil on canvas
23¾ x 28¾ in. (60 x 73 cm.)
Painted in 1953.
Private collection, New York.
Ramos collection, Miami.
Ruben and Tahyra Alvarez collection, Miami.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
J. A. Martínez, Carlos Enríquez: The Painter of Cuban Ballads, Miami, Cernuda Art, 2010, p. 227 (illustrated in color).
Z. C. Sardiñas, exhibition catalogue, Great Masters of Cuban Art: 1800-1958, Daytona Beach, Museum of Arts and Sciences, 2009, p. 246 (illustrated in color).
Daytona Beach, Museum of Arts and Sciences, Great Masters of Cuban Art: 1800-1958, 7 December 2007 - 1 September 2008.

Lot Essay

Carlos Enríquez Gómez was born in the provincial town of Zulueta, province of Las Villas, to a physician father and a housewife mother. He was raised in a bourgeois family environment where he was the only male child with four sisters. Enríquez always placed great importance to both his birthplace and childhood in provincial Zulueta; in the landscape, life and customs of rural Cuba he would find the central subjects of his art.
Enríquez, together with Victor Manuel, Eduardo Abela, Antonio Gattorno, Amelia Peláez and Fidelio Ponce, belongs to the first generation of modernist painters in Cuba. There is no doubt that Enríquez, with Peláez and Ponce, is one of the most original artists in this group.
Enríquez studied High School in Candler College, an American Methodist private school in Havana. There he met his lifelong friend and future fellow artist Marcelo Pogolotti, and made drawings that served as illustrations for the school's magazine. In 1920 he was sent to Philadelphia to study at the Curtis Business School. After completing his studies there, he studied during the summer of 1924 at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. This was the extent of his formal education. A return to Havana with an American wife (the painter Alice Neel), life in New York and stays in Paris and Madrid did the rest. By the time he returned to Havana in late 1933 he had been exposed to the great tradition of Western painting (such as El Greco, Zurbarán, Velázquez and Goya) as well as the latest manifestations of the modern, in particular expressionism, Dada and surrealism. His mature style, which developed in the 1930s, consists of fluid lines and transparent overlapping forms held together by an intense and at times febrile use of color.

One of the principal subjects of Enríquez's art is the horse and horse and rider placed within a violent landscape. When Enríquez's work was included in The Museum of Modern Art's 1944 exhibition "Modern Cuban Painters," Alfred H. Barr, Jr. wrote:

There is little reserve and no still life in the volatile art of Carlos Enríquez. He suggests the legendary violence and sensuality of his country by fusing desperados, galloping horses, figures of women, and the windy, rolling Cuban landscape into tornados of iridescent color.(1)

Art historian Juan A. Martínez has written in his monograph on the artist:
Enríquez's life-long fascination with horses can also be traced to his childhood in Zulueta. Horses were much a part of everyday life in Cuban rural towns, serving as the main mode of transportation, at times as beasts of burden, and in some cases used by the rider to show off his masculinity. Enríquez began to ride horses as a child in Zulueta and continued upon his return to Cuba in 1934.(2)
Carrera de Caballos, painted five years before his death in 1957, continues to explore his equestrian obsession, yet belongs to the artist's late style. Other important horse-themed works from this decade include Caballos y Mujer, Caballo Huyendo del Fuego, Vortex and Caballos Salvajes. For Enríquez, like for the romantic painters of the 19th century, the horse is a symbol of nature, of strength and virility. In Carrera de Caballos the horses are domesticated by the guajiro riders, and in turn become an extension of their machismo. The horses, whose colors reflect the orange, brown and green of the landscape, race across the land and against the wind. Behind them, soft green hills contain palm trees waving against a thickly painted sky, where the clouds resemble breasts or buttocks. The painting possesses a lyrical desperation where the riders race against each other in a landscape that evokes female sensuality.

Alejandro Anreus, Ph.D.

1) A. H. Barr, Jr., "Modern Cuban Painters," New York, Museum of Modern Art bulletin, April 1944, p. 4.
2) J. A. Martínez, Carlos Enríquez: The Painter of Cuban Ballads, Coral Gables, Cernuda Arte, 2010, p. 27.

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