Wifredo Lam

Sagua La Grande, Villa Clara, Cuba 1902 – París, France, 1982

Was a Cuban avant-garde painter. In the early 1930s his surrealist influence was evident, as was that of Henri Matisse and possibly Joaquín Torres García. In 1936, while visiting an exhibition of Pablo Picasso, he felt a strong attraction to him, both artistically and politically. Helped by his friend Faustino Cordón, in 1936 he joined the Republican army as a volunteer in its fight against the Franco-led coup. He drew anti-fascist posters and was responsible for running a munitions factory. The violence of the fighting inspired his great canvas entitled The Civil War.

In 1938, he moved to Paris, where Picasso himself took him under his wing and nurtured his interest in African art and primitive masks. Lam’s varied multicultural heritage, as well as his relationship with Santeria, is widely manifested in the artist’s work. During World War II, Lam lived most of the time in the Caribbean, along with Claude Lévi-Strauss, André Masson and André Breton, whose poem “Fata Morgana” Lam illustrated in 1940. In 1941 he returned to Havana, where he was strongly influenced by Carl Jung’s theories. In late 1942, he began his important work “The Jungle” (1943). Lam developed a style of his own in which he combined surrealism and cubism with the spirit and forms of the Caribbean.

He received the Guggenheim International Award in 1964, and in 1966 and 1967 numerous retrospectives of his work were held at the Kunsthalle in Basel, the Kestner-Gesellschaft in Hanover, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm and the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. He received numerous awards and recognitions. His works can be found in the world’s foremost museums.