Carlos Enriquez: A Current of Cuban Art

  • December 06, 2013 12:42

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Carlos Enriquez

The Cuban Modern art movement, or the Vanguardia, is something that has received little attention in America. This movement was diverse and served as both celebration and exploration of Cuban identity. It was a fusion of European Modern art, specifically Surrealism and Cubism, and a wide variety of personal styles. No two artists were alike. At times, art historians have a difficult time pinpointing who was part of the movement.

One of the country’s significant early Modernists was Carlos Enriquez. However, outside of Cuba, Enriquez is unfortunately overlooked. Despite being respected by artists such as Diego Rivera, Gertrude Stein, and others, Enriquez is not as well known.

Enriquez was born in the rural Cuban town of Zulueta in 1900. After finishing high school, Enriquez traveled to America and briefly studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Between 1924 and 1934, he lived in New York City, Paris, and Madrid. While in these three cities, he absorbed the emerging art styles and shared long conversations with a wide range of artists and intellectuals. Surrealism became one of his major influences, especially that of Lorca, Dali, and Picabia.

The return home to Cuba opened Enriquez’s eyes to the native beauty and culture he had taken for granted growing up. His work became focused on his native country. With dramatic brushstrokes and overlapping compositions, Enriquez paid homage to Cuban history, legend, and people. Nostalgia also drove him to depict the rural countryside of his youth through a mix of Surrealism, Expressionism, and Dada.

Horses were one of Carolos Enriquez’s favorite subjects. Horses were highly valued in rural Cuban communities and were seen as a symbol of virility and power. Enriquez also had a deep personal connection to horses. He had spent his boyhood riding them and continued as an adult.

In Carrera de Caballos the horses were painted with flowing whirls of orange, green, and brown – giving a sense of running against the wind and a connection to the landscape. The clouds behind them are unnaturally round, symbolizing the relationship between the feminine and the masculine.

Carolos Enriquez captured the Cuban landscape, but not by painting strictly scenes of beaches or rolling hills. He captured Cuba through people, horses, and bursts of color. The painted landscape is rich in culture and energy. Poetic and bold, Enriquez is perhaps Cuba’s best kept secret.


Kenny Ackerman is an Art Dealer in New York, specializing in Fine Art Paintings from 19th-21st century Europe and America. To buy or sell original paintings by artists we represent, contact Ackerman's Fine Art here.



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