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Carlos Enríquez, an essential creator of the visual arts

Published: 2017.05.08 - 16:50:19   /  /  Miguel Darío García Porto  /  translated by  Luis E. Amador Dominguez  /

It was the second day of May 1957, the month when spring began in this hemisphere, when the Cuban painter Carlos Enríquez Galope died at the age of 56.

The famous artist was not only a legend in Havana for his avant-garde work – which has been internationally recognized ever since - but also his provocative personality, extravagances and mysteries that surrounded his life attracted the attention of friends, acquaintances and the whole of society.

Carlos Enríquez was born in Zulueta, Las Villas, on August 3, in 1900. After completing high school, his family decided to pay for his engineering studies in the United States, but once there he moved to Pennsylvania in order to enroll in the School of Fine Arts of that city, where he would be expelled for disagreements with teachers, focused on aesthetic issues.

Upon returning to Cuba in 1925, he was accompanied by the American painter Alice Neel, to whom he married shortly afterward and had two children, Santillana del Mar (after the name of a Spanish town) and Isabel, the first child died in the first year of life. That marriage ended in a resounding failure.

In 1927, he had taken part in the II Salón de Bellas Artes and in the Exhibition of New Art, which were well received by critics, although his treatment of the nude would be controversial for the modest critics and spectators of that time.

He traveled for the second time to the United States, and also for the first time to Europe, where he visited France, Spain, Italy and Great Britain, thus coming into contact with dissimilar pictorial universes and artists of the most varied tendencies.

On returning to Cuba in 1934, he attempted to exhibit his work at the Reporters' Association of Havana, but finally the director of the center refused, arguing that those were immoral, given the rigid conceptions of those years. Nevertheless, the value of his painting was recognized the following year, with the award of the Salón Nacional, granted to the piece ¨El rey de los campos de Cuba¨ (Manuel García).

In 1938, his work ¨El rapto de las mulatas¨ was awarded at the II National Exhibition of Painters and Sculptors. This synthesizes the aesthetic essences of Enríquez: the transparencies, the sense of movement that communicates, the peculiar sensuality and a deep Cuban identity; although the classical reminiscences of the myth of the rapture of Las Sabinas are present. The piece is one of the most important of our heritage and is permanently exhibited in the National Museum of Fine Arts.

Other significant works of this artist are ¨Campesionos felices¨, ¨Las bañistas de la laguna¨, ¨Dos Ríos¨ and ¨Combate¨. We can also mention ¨La ahogada¨, ¨Isabelita¨, ¨Mujer de mármol, ¨Carmen de España¨, ¨Amor en Pirindingo¨, ¨Laguna de Banao¨, ¨Hijas de las Antillas¨, ¨Atarés 1926¨, ¨Nancy and Phoebe¨, ¨Bourdoir¨ and ¨L'Ecuyere¨, amongst others.

Carlos Enríquez has been one of the main exponents of the Cuban avant-garde and the one who had greater consciousness of what the act of creation meant in itself, in terms of originality and imagination, beyond academicism and strictly technical conceptions.

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