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: © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


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.