Cuban Art and National Identity: The Vanguardia Painters, 1927-1950

By Juan A. Martínez | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
The Vanguardia Generation in Its Social Context

Artists, like everyone else, live in a historical-social realm that shapes their worldviews and informs their art. Works of art are the result of many decisions made by the artist under the influence of tradition, peer influence, and historical situation. No matter how seemingly tenuous, there is a connection between art and social life. In the case of the vanguardia generation of painters there are important relations between the form and content of their work and progressive tendencies in Cuban sociopolitical ideology. The general relationship between the artistic-cultural and sociopolitical vanguards has been described by the art historian Adelaida de Juan as follows: "The [Cuban] artistic vanguard had, in large or small measure, certain points of contact with the sociopolitical vanguard. This does not mean that the artists joined such a vanguard or that, ideologically, they shared its postulates. However, it does indicate that the artists formed part, within their specific field, of an atmosphere that, in promoting a change in the established norms, coincided with their own wish for a change in the existing cultural ambiance."1 In fact, there are a number of points of contact between the art and attitudes of the vanguardia painters and the progressive sociopolitical ideology of their generation. Moreover, many of the leading sociopolitical activists of the Cuban vanguard generation were intellectuals and writers or artists who believed in affirming the connections between the cultural and social spheres.

To understand better the historical relations between the art of the vanguardia painters and the progressive sociopolitical ideology of their generation, it is useful to examine salient events in Cuban history and correspondingly important characteristics of Cuban nationalism from the War of Independence to the Constitution of 1940. This is roughly the period

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