Wifredo Lam, Cuban and universal

Wifredo Lam, Cuban and universal

Visual Arts

By Alina Veranes

Under the rubric of Wifredo Lam, a simple and immense Cuban was consecrated in the world of universal fine arts, named at birth on December 8, 1902 in Sagua la Grande,as Wilfredo Oscar de la Concepción Lam y Castilla.

He will then be praised for his presence of 120 years among us. And a few days ago, on September 11, four decades since his physical disappearance was commemorated, which occurred in Paris, where he lived for many years with his family. He triumphed and was known fundamentally as a painter markedly influenced by cubism, surrealism and other avant-garde movements of the early 20th century.

His greatness also showed him to be multifacetic in aspects such as lithography, collage, other graphic techniques, sculpture and ceramics,  just to name a few. He was the son of a Cantonese Chinese émigré and a Creole whose veins ran Hispanic, Aboriginal and African blood.

However, despite his humble origins, he was able to access academic studies, with the help of the City Council of his hometown, both at the San Alejandro National Academy of Fine Arts, in Havana, and at the San Fernando Academy, Madrid.

Since his youth, his artistic deliveries were of great quality and rapidly evolved for the better, under the influence of the avant-garde, later enriched with the worldview of the Cuban mestizo culture. Lam was always a creative artist and a restless traveler. This did not prevent him from settling back in Havana from 1941 to 1952, in what was a very decisive stage in his professional maturity.

Among his compatriots, his greatest merit is having expressed essential elements of the identity and cosmogony of his homeland and even of the entire Caribbean, with a very personal, unique style. With this he made his way to universality and immortality.

 A year before his death, he was decorated with the Félix Varela Order, the nation's highest cultural award. Among his works stand out The Toy King (1942), Hurricane (1944-1946), The Jungle (1943), the original of which is exhibited in an important museum in New York, The Chair (1943), a jewel in the collection of Fine Arts of Havana and a Seated Woman (1927). Today, many of his works are shown in selected museums and galleries in Europe, America and other continents.