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

By Juan A. Martínez | Go to book overview

APPINDIX
Biographies

Eduardo Abela

Born San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba, 1889. Died Havana, 1965

Eduardo Abela studied at the San Alejandro Academy of Fine Arts, graduating in 1921. He lived in Spain from 1921 to 1924 and France from 1927 to 1929 to expand his artistic and cultural horizons. In Paris he socialized with a group of vanguard Cuban writers and artists including Alejo Carpentier, who encouraged him to paint Cuban themes and introduced him to the latest currents in art. After experimenting with various modern styles, Abela developed his own, under the inspiration of Jules Pascin and Marc Chagall. His Parisian stay culminated with an exhibition at the Galérie Zak in November 1929, where he showed a series of paintings and drawings drawing on Afrocuban and Creole culture. Like many of his colleagues, he discovered Cuba in his art while living abroad, apparently motivated by a combination of distance and nostalgia.

On his return to Havana, Abela turned to political and social cartooning and invented a character called El Bobo (The Fool), which appeared in the pages of El Diario de la Marina from 1930 to 1934. El Bobo gained national recognition as a critical voice against the Gerardo Machado dictatorship. In the second half of the 1930s Abela returned to painting, employing a naturalistic style influenced by early Renaissance painting and the Mexican mural movement. At this time he focused on an idealized view of the Cuban peasant and the countryside, as seen in his most renowned painting, Los guajiros ( 1938). In 1937 he directed the short-lived Free Studio of Painting and Sculpture, which briefly offered an alternative to the elitist and highly structured artistic training provided by San Alejandro.

Abela served as Cuba's cultural attaché to Mexico from 1941 to 1946 and to Guatemala from 1947 to 1952. The last and most productive phase of his artistic career began in the early 1950s and lasted for a decade. This so-called magic period was characterized by an expressionistic representation of a fantasy world inhabited by women, children, and animals.

The paintings and caricatures of Abela have been extensively exhibited in Havana since the 1920s, and to a lesser extent in Spain, France, Mexico, Guatemala, and

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