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

By Juan A. Martínez | Go to book overview
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The Vanguardia Painters' Individual Visions of Cuba

The vanguardia painters, who were a generation rather than a formal group, tended to affirm their individuality as persons and artists. Their collective interest in representing Cuban themes and symbols went hand in hand with the cultivation of self-expression. In studying the contribution of these artists to the history of Cuban art and to the definition of a national identity in the second quarter of the twentieth century, their personal and unique offerings must be given further consideration. A discussion of the leading vanguardia painters' styles and iconography provides an insight into the role of personal motivations in their symbolization of national identity. In the art of the vanguardia painters there is a strong correlation between the search and visualization of self and collective ethos.

Víctor Manuel

Víctor Manuel holds a seminal position in the history of modern Cuban art as the artist who introduced the modernism of the School of Paris into painting.1 His 1927 one-person show in Havana, where he exhibited his Parisian work of the previous two years, opened the way for the confrontation with the art and teachings of San Alejandro and for the renovation of Cuban painting. Although informed of the latest trends in Parisian art of the 1920s, he crafted a personal style inspired by the pioneers of French modernism: Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin. Their paintings confirmed his tendency toward the simplification of pictorial means and the idealization of reality. More important, Gauguin's celebrated representations of the Pacific Islands' exotic, pre-urban people and tropical environment


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