This work is sold with a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist and dated Paris 20-4-1971.
Wifredo Lam, together with Matta, was one of two Latin Americans who belonged to the international surrealist movement before they had established reputations in their respective homelands. This association is essential in understanding these artists' commitment to the transformation of surrealism into a Third World, post-colonial vocabulary.
The youngest of nine children, Lam was born to an elderly Chinese father and an Afro-Cuban mother in the town of Sagua la Grande, in the province of Las Villas, Cuba. In 1916 his family moved to Havana, and from 1918 to 1923 he studied at the San Alejandro Academy, sailing that autumn to Spain, where he continued his studies at the San Fernando Academy in Madrid. His work from this period is in the Spanish realist tradition as exemplified by the paintings of Ignacio Zuloaga. During the next fourteen years in Spain, he encountered the work of Matisse, Torres-García and Picasso; his pictorial production evolved from realism to a more expressive synthesis of expressionism and cubism. Lam fought briefly in the Spanish Civil War, taking part in the defense of Madrid in 1937 (he was associated with anarcho-communist and Trotskyite groups at this time). In 1938 Lam arrived in Paris where he met Picasso and through the Spaniard, Breton and the surrealists, who welcomed him into the movement. After the outbreak of World War II, the capitulation of France in 1940 and the establishment of the Vichy government, Lam left Europe in the company of fellow surrealists on the ship Capitaine Paul-Merle. Lam arrived in Havana in the summer of 1941. Throughout the years 1942 to 1945, Lam was defining his mature style as a unique synthesis of cubism, African sculpture and a vision of the world that is fantastic, distorted, where human forms and animal parts are fused together to inhabit the lush, pulsating landscapes of the Caribbean. The belief system of Santeria--the syncretic union of the beliefs of African slaves with Catholicism--provided meaning to his content.
Untitled of 1944 is a major work from these early years. That year Lam painted other significant works such as El caminante de la isla, Altar para Yemaya and Altar para Eleggua. In Untitled we encounter all of the basic iconographic elements of his work: the horse woman with horns and breasts, small, round heads of diablitos, and birds and bodies that synthesize the human with the animal. The composition depicts an encounter between two figures, one whose back is turned to the viewer, while the other, the femme cheval, faces out. The heads of several diablitos pile up above the horse woman, forming a totemic shape. The paint is thinly applied, with tan, white and grays subtly staining the canvas' surface. The painting possesses an almost neo-classical elegance, with the lines defining the ghost-like shapes of all the forms. The overall sensation is that of a diaphanous, misty morning, so typical of the tropics; as if on the first day of creation, the creatures are awakening and coming into being.
Alejandro Anreus, Ph.D., art historian