Cundo Bermúdez (Cuban 1914-2008)
Cundo Bermúdez (Cuban 1914-2008)

Pareja en la mesa

Cundo Bermúdez (Cuban 1914-2008)
Pareja en la mesa
signed and dated 'Cundo Bermudez, 59' (lower right)
oil on canvas
40 x 50¾ in. (101.6 x 129 cm.)
Painted in 1959.
Acquired from the artist, Lima, Peru (1959).
By descent to the present owner.
Lima, Peru, Instituto de Arte Contemporáneo, Cundo Bermúdez, 19 November- 5 December 1959, no. 11.

Lot Essay

We are grateful to Conrado Basulto for confirming the authenticity of this work. This work will be accompanied by a forthcoming certificate of authenticity signed by Conrado Basulto.

Born and raised in Havana, Cundo Bermúdez belonged to the second generation of avant-garde painters in Cuba. A peer and contemporary of Mariano Rodríguez, René Portocarrero, Mario Carreño and Felipe Orlando, Bermúdez, like them, chose to paint the more intimate and traditional aspects of urban Cuban life, favoring genre, still-life and portraiture, over agrarian subjects with a strong social ethos.

Throughout the 1940s Bermúdez's oil paintings and gouaches emphasized well-modeled forms and a palette that balanced dark colors with bright and intense ones. By 1950 the sculptural modeling of his pictures gave way to flat forms and brighter colors, emphasizing patterns throughout the compositions. If in the 1940s Bermúdez work had been influenced by Mexican art and Picasso's neo-classical period, in the 1950s the influence of Henri Matisse and Juan Gris, with their decorative qualities and joyous colors became prevalent. Domestic interiors are abundant in Cuban paintings of the 1940s and 1950s; Portocarrero and Felipe Orlando together with Bermúdez favored this subject.
Pareja en la mesa was painted in 1959, the first year of the Cuban Revolution. The composition consists of two figures at a table. The figures--one male, the other female--are very stylized with long noses, necks and arms. They are both dark skinned and wear clothing whose colors complement each other; the man a red shirt and the woman a green dress. The wall behind them and the table in front of them are painted in a variety of yellows. The male figure plays a flute, while the female fingers the red beads around her neck. On the table are two wine glasses in white, a thin dark pitcher, one green fish and half of mamey with its red, meaty pulp and central dark brown seed--once again, the green and red create a harmony of complements. Although a musical instrument is present, silence is evoked. The figures are expressionless, elegantly stationed in a traditional ritual that will be altered by the changes that are already taking place in 1959.
Bermúdez continued to paint in this flat and stylized manner, with his colors becoming more acidic, throughout the 1960s. After going into exile in 1967, his palette and definition of forms entered a third and final stylistic phase, where volume returned and colors acquired luminosity.

Alejandro Anreus, Ph.D.

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