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Painting is the most genuine expression of fine arts on the island. It could not develop in a coherent manner because its first expressions, made by the aborigines in the caves, were discontinued when those communities disappeared. With the conquest and evangelisation process a religious kind of painting prevailed, associated to catholic liturgy. Only in the 19th century, when the San Alejandro academy was founded (1818), paintings by natives began to flourish, designed to satisfy the European taste of Cuban bourgeoisie. The Economic Association Friends of the Country created the Academy and its first principal was French painter Jean Bautiste Vermay. By 1880 a new tendency in Cuban painting was born, its main subject was landscapes. Outstanding in this period were Esteban Chartrand and Valentin Sanz Carta. The works of Basque Victor Patricio de Landaluze showed an interesting folkloric style. But classicism still ruled in fine arts. The avant-gardist awakening of the '20s (20th century) initiated a new period for Cuban painting. The modern movement had its first and most important exhibit in 1927, sponsored by the magazine Avance. Eduardo Abela, Victor Manuel, Antonio Gattorno, Carlos Enriquez and others were starters of the vanguardist movement in Cuba. Following years were of consolidation of the modern movement; this was evidenced at the celebration of the First Modern Arts Salon on 1937. Then, young artists already showed a new period in Cuban art that would build up to create, the so-called "School of Havana" in 1940.

Painters like Rene Portocarrero, Amelia Pelaez and Mariano Rodriguez are part of this movement. Wilfredo Lam returned to Cuba in 1942 after a long stay in Europe and a studio experience with Pablo Picasso. On 1943 Lam painted the work that immortalised him "The Jungle", which was acquired by New York's MOMA. With the triumph of the revolution, the artistic movement strengthened, since the foundation in 1962 of the National School of Fine Arts. Very important personalities such as Raul Martinez and Antonia Eiriz formed the body of professors. A few years later, in 1976, the Fine Arts College of the High Institute of Arts was founded. The important patrimony of the last decade gathers works of artists like Roberto Fabelo, Zaida del Rio, Tomas Sanchez, Manuel Mendive and Nelson Dominguez. Young artists such as, Jose Bedia, Kcho and Flavio Garciandia have occupied a privileged spot ahead of the new styles of painting. During the last 30 years Cuban painting has shown great capability to undertake the more important influences from the international arts, with a creative and unique appearance, assuming at the same time a critic attitude to continue defending the characteristic features of the Cuban identity.

Cuban artist today are abundant, they provide a mixture of past and future conceptions that are creating a worldwide attraction to the works. Art festivals and market sales of these paintings can be found all over the country. Who'll be the next Rembrandt? We will know in 100 years.

 

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