Mario Carreño (1913-1999)
Mario Carreño (1913-1999)

Leda Among the Trees (also known as Girl Among Trees)

Mario Carreño (1913-1999)
Leda Among the Trees (also known as Girl Among Trees)
signed and dated 'Carreño 45' (upper left)
oil on canvas laid down on board
24 x 19 ¾ in. (61 x 50.2 cm.)
Painted in 1945.
Perls Galleries, New York.
Dr. Manuel Manrique, New York.
George and Leonor Miller, Tucson.
Anon. sale, Christie's, New York, 16 November 1994, lot 58 (illustrated in color).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
New York, Perls Galleries, Mario Carreño: Recent Paintings, 5 November - 1 December 1945, no. 13.

Lot Essay

By the time Mario Carreño exhibited Leda among the Trees at Perls Gallery in 1945, the 32-year-old artist had already received critical acclaim from the art centers of New York, Paris and Havana. Indeed, the young Carreño’s work had by then made it into the hallowed halls of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Paris’ Jeu de Paume and Havana’s Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. The previous year, MOMA’s esteemed director, Alfred Barr had declared Carreño to be “the most versatile, learned and courageous of the new generation [in Cuba]”(1) in his introduction to the groundbreaking exhibition Modern Cuban Painters. Meanwhile, Perls Gallery placed Carreño within an even broader context, pronouncing him a “highly valuable addition to contemporary American painting” at their 1945 exhibition, their third one man show for the artist. (2)

Stylistically, 1945 was also a watershed year for Carreño. Having lived and traveled extensively throughout Europe and the Americas, Carreño had absorbed the lessons of the Italian Renaissance, the School of Paris and the Mexican Muralists. His work from the 1930s and early 1940s is dominated by realist, Renaissance inspired figures while his later paintings embrace geometric abstraction. The year 1945, however, shows Carreño at a crossroads, working in a more minimalist Cubist style before he slipped into complete abstraction.
A review of the 1945 Perls show noted “a nostalgia for the School of Paris, notably Picasso in certain figure compositions”(3) and indeed Leda among the Trees with its blocky handling of the female form and the elongated bifurcated face clearly demonstrates the mark of the French master. Yet as a figure from antiquity, this Leda also evokes Carreño’s own earlier work in which goddesses and graces abound. With its verdant greens and warm flesh tones, Leda among the Trees embodies the words of one reviewer who avowed that “high color…shouts with uninhibited delight in the work of Mario Carreño.”(4)

1 Alfred Barr, Modern Cuban Painters, Museum of Modern Art Bulletin, Vol. XI, no. 5, April 1944, p. 4.
2 Introductory text, Mario Carreño: Recent Paintings, Perls Gallery, 5 November - 1 December 1945.
3 Howard Devree, “Strangers within our Gates,” New York Times, November 11, 1945, p. 51.
4 Edward Alden Jewell, “Cuba’s Pacemakers: Exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art Brings us Colorful, Progressive Work,” New York Times, March 26, 1944, page X7.

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