New Art Book Owes Debt to Cuban Strongman
Hyman, Ann, The Florida Times Union
Cuban strongman Fulgencio Batista and his wife, Marta, often
vacationed in Daytona Beach during the 1930s and '40s.
As political and military pressures escalated at home, Batista
looked for a likely place to deposit treasures that he did not
want left in Havana, should he need to leave home.
In 1959, Fidel Castro saw to it that Batista needed to leave
Three years before, in 1956, Batista had transferred ownership
of his extensive private collection of Cuban art to Daytona's
new Museum of Arts and Sciences.
Besides works of fine art, Batista gave decorative arts,
furniture, sculpture and works on paper.
But, the heart of the collection was, and is, more than 50
paintings that date from 1725 to 1959.
It is an historic collection. Many consider it the most
important collection of Cuban art in the Western Hemisphere.
The Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona has just published a
handsome catalog of the collection, Cuba: A History in Art,
$24.95, available through the museum shop.
In addition to reproductions of important pieces from the
museum's Cuban art gallery, there are informative essays on the
development of the Cuban style in the colonial years and during
the republican period, 1902-1959. Special attention is paid to
the particular bent photography took in Cuba in the
pre-flashbulb era, from 1839 to 1921. There is also attention
paid to Cuban folk art.
The book, by museum director Gary R. Libby and art historian
Juan A. Martinez, is a quick course in art history in the New
World and in social history.
The observer can guess what's going on in one of Spain's
mostimportant and prosperous outposts in the Americas by looking
at the art produced in Cuba. The observer can see what's going
on during the republican period after Cuba won its independence
from Spain, with a little help from American adventurers and
dark-of-night gunrunners like Jacksonville's Napoleon B. Broward
and his friends.
Not surprisingly, the Cuban style reflects Cuba itself. During
the colonial period, the paintings are quite European in feeling
and execution. …