Cuba’s Vanguard artists studied modern and avant-garde art movements like Cubism and Surrealism. They brought these modern art movements home to Cuba and adapted them to the island’s particular cultural context. They were also influenced by their contemporaries in Latin America, including Diego Rivera and the Mexican muralists.
The Vanguardia created a counterculture opposed to North American neo-imperialism and a state-sponsored academic art style, both of which were supported by the president at the time. Many Vanguard artists made art about the island abroad, studying in modern art capitals like Paris and looking back at a distance. In this way, they anticipated major themes in Cuban art for generations to come: home, distance, nostalgia, exile and complex political critique.
The Vanguard was largely dominated by men but Amelia Peláez studied in Paris and infused her work with the best of European modernism.
Image: Amelia Peláez, Fishes (1943). Oil on canvas, 45 1/2 x 35 1/8 in. (115.6 x 89.2 cm)