Wifredo Lam


Wifredo Lam attended the San Alejandro Academy of Fine Arts between 1918 and 1923. At this time, he painted mostly still lifes and landscapes. In 1923, he left for Spain to further his artistic education. 
Between 1947 and 1952 Lam lived and worked in Havana, New York, Paris, and Albisola. He then settled permanently in Paris. During the rest of his long and productive career, his style and iconography evolved along a steady course toward greater simplicity and abstraction, at times bordering on the decorative. Voodoo rituals. European culture. Chinese and Caribbean heritage. All of these things represent the culmination of Wifredo Lam’s artistic career.
Perhaps one of the most eclectic painters in the world, his work is one part Afro-Cuban inspired, one part abstract and surreal and one part his own innovation and style. It has been argued that he is one of the most important artists to come out of the 20th century. Born in the turn of the century in Cuba, Lam was able to go to school in Europe during some of the most important movements in art. His mother was of Afro-Cuban lineage and his father was Chinese. He grew up watching his grandmother perform Voodoo rituals that later influenced his art.
While in Europe, he was highly impacted by the work of Henri Matisse and had a very close friendship with Pablo Picasso, who was also his associate. Lam eventually joined the Surrealists, thought his best-known work later on was clearly abstract and Cubist. Though he lived most of his life in Paris, he used his Cuban heritage as inspiration in conceiving his art.
Lam’s work is often full of dark themes; death, anger, and sometimes even fear. This can be attributed to the death of his wife and son early on in his career. After only two years of marriage, he lost both his wife and infant son to tuberculosis in 1931. This no doubt affected the themes in his art after this time, along with the war in Europe and the ever changing social and political conflicts in Cuba.
A painter, printmaker and sculptor, his art is all his own. He painted with a very tropical color palate, using the vibrant greens, reds and oranges of the Caribbean isles. Wifredo Lam was a highly respected artist during his lifetime, and was unconventional in his styling. His work is housed all over the world, in museums and private collections all over the world.. Over the past thirty years Lam has been the subject of several monographs and numerous retrospective exhibitions.