The Eternal Presence (An Homage to Alejandro García Caturla)
Wifredo Lam, Cuban, The Eternal Presence (An Homage to Alejandro García Caturla), 1944, Mixed media on jute; 216.5 x 195.9 cm (85 3/16 x 77 1/8 inches), Nancy Sayles Day Collection of Modern Latin American Art 66.154
Born in Cuba, Lam received his artistic training in Spain. In 1938 he moved to Paris, where he received encouragement from Pablo Picasso. Lam’s style combined aspects of his African, Spanish, and Chinese heritage with conventions of European modernism. When he returned home, he established friendships with other Cuban artists, including the composer Alejandro García Caturla to whom he dedicated The Eternal Presence. Completed while Lam was in Haiti with surrealist poet André Breton, the painting’s themes are primitive and threatening, referencing Afro-Cuban culture, the Santería religion, and Carl Jung’s texts on archetypes of the collective unconscious. Lam’s sources coalesce in this vast composition in which hallucinatory figures with animal heads and murderously seductive female attributes are enmeshed in a dense, tropical landscape.