The Eternal Presence (An Homage to Alejandro García Caturla)
The Eternal Presence (An Homage to Alejandro García Caturla), 1944
Oil and pastel over papier maché and chalk ground on bast fiber fabric
216.5 x 195.9 cm (85 1/4 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 was both influenced and encouraged by Pablo Picasso. Lam devised a personal style in which he employed conventions of European Modernism to express aspects of his African, Spanish, and Chinese heritage. 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 presents themes that are both primitive and threatening. They liberally reference Afro-Cuban culture, its 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 the dense, tropical landscape.