Goddess with Foliage

Artist: Wifredo Lam (Cuban, Sagua La Grande 1902–1982 Paris)

Date: 1942

Medium: Gouache on paper

Dimensions: 41 1/2 x 33 1/2 in. (105.4 x 85.1 cm)

Classification: Drawings

Credit Line: The Pierre and Maria-Gaetana Matisse Collection, 2002

Accession Number: 2002.456.32

Rights and Reproduction: © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Elements of African, Cubist, and Surrealist art seem blended in this large, hybrid figure painted in gouache by the Cuban artist Wifredo Lam. The creature's pointed ears, horse's snout, buttock, fruit-shaped breasts, and expressive hands combine human, vegetal, and animal elements.

Lam had returned to his native Cuba in 1941, after having spent the previous eighteen years in Europe, first in Spain and then in Paris. Picasso had become a friend and supporter, as had André Breton, the French poet and leader of the Surrealists. It was Breton who persuaded Pierre Matisse to give Lam his first exhibition in this country in 1942 (he subsequently held five more exhibitions of the artist's work through 1982). Breton also wrote the introduction to the 1942 catalogue and invented the French titles of all fourteen gouaches included in that exhibition. The figure's regal bearing and camouflage surroundings inspired Breton to give it the title Déesse avec feuillage (Goddess with Foliage).