Who was the Cuban painter Wifredo Lam?

Wifredo Lam was a Cuban painter who combined Western modernism and influences from African and Caribbean cultures to create a unique artistic language. Lam developed close ties to the artist Pablo Picasso, members of the surrealist movement and artists in the CoBrA group.

Wifredo Lam was born on 8 December 1902 in Cuba. In 1916,  Wifredo Lam enrolled at the San Alejandro fine arts school (the Escuela Profesional de Pintura y Escultura de San Alejandro) in Havana, where he studied until 1923. It was during this period, which was marked by exhibitions at the Fine Arts Salon of Havana, that Lam confirmed his vocation as a painter. The city council of Sagua La Grande awarded Lam a grant to pursue his studies in Europe in 1923. In the autumn of the same year, the Cuban painter travelled to Spain at the age of 21. In 1938, Lam left Spain to live in Paris, where he met Pablo Picasso. Shortly before the war, the Cuban painter left Paris, moving to Bordeaux and then to Marseille, where the artist’s friends—especially members of the surrealist group—joined André Breton. Lam worked in the city, creating a series of drawings in ink using hybrid figures that he would later develop during his stay in Cuba from 1941 to 1947. After an absence of nearly twenty years, Lam then made his way back to Cuba, where the painter deepened his artistic investigations by linking them to the world of his childhood. Wifredo Lam’s sister Eloísa introduced him to Afro-Cuban rituals, which he participated in with friends. During a stay in Haiti in 1946, Lam took part in voodoo ceremonies in the company of André Breton and Pierre Mabille. Wifredo Lam divided his last years between Cuba and Albissola. The Cuban painter Wifredo Lam died in Paris on 11 September 1982 as a result of a stroke he had suffered four years earlier in August 1978.

If you would like to find out more about the Cuban painter Wifredo Lam and his works, please visit the artist’s dedicated page.

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