This painting is sold with a certificate of authenticity from Giulio Blanc dated July 7, 1992.
Leopoldo Romanach was born in Sierra Morena, La Villas, Cuba and studied at the San Alejandro Academy in Havana and in Rome with the Italian masters Filippo Porperi, Domenico Morelli, and Francesco Michetti. His work may also be seen in the context of the Spaniard Sorolla. In 1900, Romanach obtained a professorship at the San Alejandro Academy where he taught color theory for fifty years and served as director during the 1930's. He taught and influenced not only several generations of academic artists, but also those would go on to become Cuba's leading modernists: Amelia Pelaez, Victor Manuel, Fidelio Ponce and Eduardo Abela, among others.
Guajiros, a 1922 oil painting, is an outstanding example of Romañach's figural compositions. It depicts a family of Cuban guajiros, or small farmers, carrying the bounty of the rich countryside. The father holds a large turkey, his wife a sheath of grain, and the daughter a basket of mangos. In the background, oxen plough the fertile red soil on the midst of a landscape of royal palms and other trees.
The farmers are realistically depicted, their features individualized. While they may be studio models, they may also have been actual guajiros who posed for the artist. The imporant point here is that they are depicted with photographic honesty and are obviously beings of flesh and blood.
Painted at an especially prosperous moment in Cuban history, the years of the "dance of the millions" brought about by a rise in the price of sugar, this is a work of barely concealed propagandistic nationalism. These guajiros are fit, hearty and simply but attractively dressed. They pose proudly with the fruits of their labors.
Guajiros stands at a transitional moment in Cuban painting. On the one hand, it s a celebration of nineteenth century and earlier allegorical compositions. While there is a definite theatricality to the poses and gestures and the attributes are familiar ones from the repertory of art history, these are not mythological or historical beings. This is indeed and allegory, but a modern-day Cuban allegroy Guajiros stands as something of an antecedent for the modernist works of the members of "generation of 1927". While the subject is Cuba, the style has little to do with the twientieth century Parisian innovations that so deeply affected Romañach's students once they left the academy.
guajiros may not be "modern" painting, but it does fall into the category of similar nationalist "social realist" works of the era. Diego Rivera's murals come to mind as does the American Thomas Hart Benton and the Russian painters who abandoned abstraction in favor of realism.
Leopoldo Romañach may thus be seen as an academic artist who saw the need for innovation without transgressing time-honored aesthetic dogma. A masterpiece such as Guajiros demonstrates how this balance was reached.
Giulio V. Blanc
July 7, 1992