*1902 in Sagua La Grande, Cuba
†1982 in Paris, France
Wifredo Lam was a major 20th-century painter who fused elements of Cubism and Surrealism with African culture in his paintings. Born in Cuba, the multi-ethnic artist came from Chinese, European, Indian, and mixed-African descent. He studied in Spain at the studio of Fernando Alvarez de Sotomayor, the Director of the Prado, who also taught Salvador Dalí. An early tragedy – the death of his wife and newborn son – contributed to the development of his existential and surrealist style. After the Spanish Civil War, Lam went to Paris where his friend Pablo Picasso would introduce him to Matisse, Léger, Braque, Miró, Éluard and Michel Leiris. Lam passed the WWII years in the Caribbean, in the company of prominent surrealists and intellectuals such as, Claude Lévi-Straus, André Masson, and André Breton, whose poem “Fata Morgana” Lam illustrated in 1940. He developed an interest in Santeria and Voodoun, which became integral for his work. Through the 1940s, Lam would exhibit with Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York. In 1960, Lam established a studio on the Italian coast in Albisola Mare. In 1964, he was awarded the Guggenheim International Award, which was followed by major retrospectives at the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Today, the artist’s works can be found in leading museums such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; and the Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid.