New Art Book Owes Debt to Cuban Strongman

By Hyman, Ann | The Florida Times Union, January 4, 1998 | Go to article overview

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

home.

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. …

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