Whether you want to learn more about Cuban art, or you would like to start collecting it, here is a brief history of Cuban art to get you started.
Throughout history, Cuban art has been influenced by the rich history of the island itself and can be divided into several distinctive periods.
There is not much evidence of Pre-colonial Cuban art. A handful of cave paintings that have survived to this day do not give us a lot of insight when it comes to the artistic expressions of Taino Indians, the first inhabitants of Cuba.
In the earlier period of colonial rule, especially in the 15th and 16th century, there was almost no art created on the island, instead, paintings and other decorative objects adorning churches and palaces of the wealthy Spaniards were brought from Spain and other European countries. The first Cuban artists adopted Spanish style and it was not until the 1800s that a distinctive Cuban style started to emerge. The leaders of this new movement were José Nicolás de la Escalera and Vincente Escobar who were both self-taught.
Neo-classical style from the Italian and French schools was introduced by the French artist Jean Baptiste Vermay, who, in 1818 opened the first art school in Cuba-Escuela de Pintura y Escultura de San Alejandro. The most acclaimed painter in the second half of the 19th century was Esteban Chartrand, who created beautiful landscapes for wealthy landowners.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Cuban painters were influenced by the European avant-garde and many traveled to Europe to immerse themselves in the vibrant European art scene. Some of the most talented artists from this period, who adopted postimpressionist styles, created art using recognizable Cuban themes-local farmers, mulato girls and lush tropical landscapes. One of the most talented painters from this period was Victor Manuel García who was greatly influenced by Gauguin. His contemporary, Wilfredo Lam, Cuba’s most famous painter, was primarily influenced by Picasso’s surrealism, but at the same time, embraced his Afro-Cuban heritage in the timeless and magical art he created.
In the 1970s, a new generation of artists started to emerge. New times brought new mediums: serigraphy, sketches and graphic art. Some artists embraced pop art, some painted in deliberate primitivism style and others created photorealistic landscapes. The group of the most notable artists from this period includes Roberto Fabelo, Pedro Pablo Oliva, Zaida del Río, Nelson Domínguez and Eduardo Roca.
In the 80s, Cuban art started opening up to the world and many artists were exhibited in North America and Europe. The first Havana Art Biennial was held in 1984 and to this day remains one the most important showcases of Latin American art.
The contemporary Cuban art scene is more vibrant and alive than ever with many talented artists yet to be discovered by a worldwide audience.