Combining human, vegetal, and animal elements, Lam’s large figure features pointed ears, a horse’s snout, fruit-shaped breasts, and pronounced hands. The artist studied and synthesized African art, Cubism, and Surrealism while working for eighteen years in Europe, first in Spain and later in Paris, where he befriended Pablo Picasso and poet André Breton, Surrealism’s founder. The stylistic hybridity of Lam’s art parallels his mixed ethnicity: his father was Chinese and his mother descended from a Congolese freed slave and a Cuban mulatto. Through his art, Lam sought to promote and sustain modern Afro-Cuban culture, which he feared was being corrupted by tourism and suppressed by the government.
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower right): Wifredo Lam/ 5/ 42
Pierre Matisse, New York (1942–d. 1989; acquired from the artist on September 14, 1942; stock no. 1289); his widow, Maria-Gaetana Matisse, née von Spreti, New York (1989–d. 2001); Pierre and Maria-Gaetana Matisse Foundation (2002; gift to MMA)
New York. Pierre Matisse Gallery. "Wifredo Lam: Early Works, 1942 to 1951; Paintings, Gouaches, Watercolors, and Drawings," June 1–26, 1982, no. 21.
New York. Studio Museum in Harlem. "Wifredo Lam and His Contemporaries 1938–1952," December 6, 1992–April 11, 1993, no. 13.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Pierre and Maria-Gaetana Matisse Collection," May 18, 2004–June 26, 2005, no catalogue.