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  • ICAA Record ID
    Reflexiones acerca de la pintura de Wifredo Lam / Alejo Carpentier
    Gaceta del Caribe (La Habana, Cuba). -- No. 5 (Jul. 1944)
    p. 26 - 27 : ill.
    Journal article – Essays
    Carpentier, Alejo. "Reflexiones acerca de la pintura de Wifredo Lam." Gaceta del Caribe (La Habana, Cuba), no. 5 (July 1944): 26–27.

In "Reflexiones acerca de la pintura de Wifredo Lam," written in 1944, Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier portrays the Cuban painter Wifredo Lam as a prodigious artist whose original artistic contribution is his creation of a world inspired by the flora and fauna of Latin America in his paintings. According to Carpentier, the artist’s objective is that of revelation: to create an “atmosphere” with elements borrowed from reality in order to reveal aspects of the world that are hidden or simply ignored. Carpentier asserts that rejecting any artistic influence is folly, because it is an obsession with certain influences or aspects of reality that make the artist prone to the revelatory task. Carpentier likens the artist to the expert who finds an El Greco painting hidden under the mediocre painting of an apprentice. Carpentier claims that Lam distinguishes himself as an artist through his in depth study of common Caribbean plants, such as sugar cane, plantains, squash, and root vegetables. Carpentier explains that Lam combines vegetable features with animal and human characteristics to form an atmosphere within his paintings that mirrors the constantly metamorphosing tropical landscape. This unique pictorial world in which fiction and reality collide is, in Carpentier’s opinion, Lam’s masterpiece.


Alejo Carpentier (1904–1980) was a Cuban novelist and essayist who was born in Switzerland and grew up in Havana. Capentier aligned himself with leftist politics and was jailed in 1927 for criticizing the regime of Gerardo Machado. After his release from jail, Carpentier moved to Paris where he associated with various avant-garde movements. Carpentier did not return to Cuba until 1939. He is best known for his novels, although he also wrote academic essays, journalistic articles, musicology studies, opera librettos, and plays. In 1949, Carpentier wrote El Reino de este Mundo, a novel about the Haitian revolution in the eighteenth-century that incorporated themes of Afro-Cubanism and lo real maravilloso, or magical realism. In 1946 Carpentier published La Música en Cuba, after studying the African roots of Cuban music and dance. Capentier’s other major works include ¡Ecue-Yamba-O! (1933), “Viaje a la semilla” (1944), Guerra del tiempo (1958), Los pasos perdidos (1953), and El siglo de las luces (1962). The article “Reflexiones acerca de la pintura de Wifredo Lam," published in 1944, reveals that Carpentier’s interest in Cuban identity, Afro-Cubanism, and lo real maravilloso was not limited to literary and musical manifestations, but also incorporated visual art.

Molly Moog; ICAA Team
International Center for the Arts of the Americas, MFAH, Houston, USA
© Courtesy of Fundacion Alejo Carpentier, 2012