Skip to main
Cernuda Arte Cuban Art Cernuda Arte Cuban Art accessibility statement
Artists Exhibitions Publications Selected Inventory Recent Arrivals Digital Communications Special Moments Anout Us Contact Us Home
Exhibitions - Museum Quality Artworks In Exhibition at Cernuda Arte: Amelia Peláez  
Museum Quality Artworks In Exhibition at Cernuda Arte: Amelia Peláez
  • Exhibition Photos

  • AMELIA PELÁEZ (1896-1968)

    Considered a grand master of modern
    Cuban art, and a seminal figure in 20th
    century Latin American painting, Amelia
    Peláez is one of the most acclaimed artists
    of her times. Her contribution to the avant-
    garde women’s movement in the arts-
    internationally speaking- was a palmary

    Just like Frida Kahlo in Mexico and Tarsila
    do Amaral in Brazil, Amelia -with her strong
    artistic voice- was able to break through
    the male dominant avant-garde movement
    of the era, eventually becoming a pioneer
    of Modernism in Cuba. The artist was first
    trained in and graduated from San
    Alejandro Academy in Havana under the
    academic mindset that prevailed in this art
    school. There, she excelled in painting,
    drawing, ceramics and muralism.

    Cuban Art

    Cuban Art
    Amelia Peláez
    Grey Fish
    (Peces Grises), 1931
    oil on canvas
    38 x 51 inches

    Luis Amado Blanco Collection, Havana, Cuba; Private Collection,
    Los Angeles, California.

    Exhibited in Amelia Peláez del Casal, January-February 1935,
    Lyceum, Vedado, Havana, Cuba, and listed no. 19 (Pescado Gris)
    in the exhibition brochure.

    Exhibited in Exposición de Pintura, Víctor M. García, Amelia Peláez,
    Domingo Ravenet and Carlos Enríquez
    , August 8, 1936, Lyceum,
    Vedado, Havana, Cuba, and listed no. XII (Pescados Grises)
    in the exhibition brochure.

    Exhibited in Amelia Peláez, Exposición Retrospectiva, November 14,
    1968, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana, Cuba, and listed
    in the corresponding exhibition catalog, no. 58.

    Illustrated in Pintores Cubanos – Amelia Peláez, Alejandro G. Alonso,
    Havana, Cuba, 1988, page 5.

    Illustrated in Diálogos Constructivistas en la Vanguardia Cubana:
    Amelia Peláez, Loló Soldevilla and Zilia Sánchez
    , Galerie Lelong,
    New York, April-June 2016, page 6.

    Illustrated in IMPORTANT CUBAN ARTWORKS, Volume Fourteen,
    Cernuda Arte, Coral Gables, FL, 2016, page 22.

    Cuban Art

    [Amelia] Peláez studied with [Alexandra]
    Exter in Paris from May 1931 to January
    1934, shortly before her return to
    Havana. During this time they worked in
    collage, studied book illustration, created
    set designs, and explored still life. Peláez
    reported that she owed Exter ‘her
    greatest advancement and technical
    understanding'. Indeed Exter’s
    experimental interpretation of Cubism
    and Futurism, animated by the dynamic
    potential of color, appears to have
    inspired Peláez’s approach to a lifetime of
    painting, even after her return to
    Cuba [1934]…

    Exter’s strategy of centering the
    composition on a weighty object around
    which swirled ‘whirlwinds of geometric
    forms,’ often spinning off planes,
    influenced Tatlin’s Monument to the Third
    International (1919-1920), a work
    foundational to Russian Constructivism.
    Peláez also adopts Exter’s interest in
    movement around a central pivot point in
    her circa 1931-35 Pescados Grises (Grey
    Fish). In their case a stylized, flattened
    fish and still life object become the focal
    point for the curved body of another,
    nearly-living black fish that wraps around
    them. This subtle movement may be the
    beginning of the black arabesque that
    would become the hallmark of Peláez’s
    mature style…

    -Ingrid W. Elliot, Ph.D., excerpt from the
    catalog essay Between the Real and the
    Invisible, Diálogos Constructivistas en la
    Vanguardia Cubana: Amelia Peláez, Loló
    Soldevilla and Zilia Sánchez
    , Galerie
    Lelong, New York, April-June 2016,
    pages 5 and 6.

    Cuban Art

    In 1924, the artist went on to travel to
    New York where she studied at The Arts
    Student League. Later on, in 1927, she
    traveled to Europe, visited Spain, Italy,
    and lived in Paris until 1934. It was in the
    City of Light where Amelia absorbed the
    European avant-garde movements.
    Matisse, Leger, Picasso, Braque and Gris,
    among others, shaped her imagery.
    European trends as Cubism, Fauvism and
    the Russian Avant Garde aided in
    enriching the traditional instruction she
    had received in San Alejandro. It was
    then that Amelia began to forge her own
    artistic vocabulary, marked with her
    superb force and sensibility.

    While in Paris, she studied at the Academié de
    la Grande Chaumière, and later entered the
    École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, and the
    École du Louvre. To broaden her knowledge,
    she visited an array of museums, mingled with
    the social artistic circles of the city, and
    became a close friend of the Cuban writer and
    intellectual, Lydia Cabrera who at that time
    was also living in Paris. Her studies in design
    and color theory with Russian avant-garde
    artist, Alexandra Exter (from 1931 to 1934)
    expanded the development of her formal
    training and awakened her interest in Cubism.

    Cuban Art

    Cuban Art

    Peláez earned her peers’ admiration in
    Europe with her first Parisian solo show
    in 1933 at the prestigious Galerie Zak,
    which at the time was a most important
    venue for contemporary art exhibitions -
    staging works by Chagall, Picasso,
    Modigliani and Gris, among others. To
    exhibit at Galerie Zak implied a level of
    recognition that elevated Amelia in the
    eyes of the arts community.

    In 1934, Amelia returned to Cuba at the
    age of 37. She then joined the active
    cultural circles in the island. A year later,
    the artist showcased her European works
    at the Lyceum, an important forum for
    female painters. In 1939, Amelia’s works
    were presented in New York for the first
    time, as part of the group show Latin
    American Exhibition of Fine and Applied
    at the Riverside Museum.

    Cuban Art
    Amelia Peláez
    Still Life with Fruits
    (Naturaleza Muerta con Frutas), 1935
    oil on canvas
    27 3/4 x 32 inches

    Exhibited in Amelia Peláez, A Retrospective, National Museum
    of Fine Arts, Havana, Cuba, November 1968, and listed number
    60 in the exhibition catalog.

    Exhibited in Amelia Peláez, The Craft of Modernity, Perez Art
    Museum, Miami, December 2013 and illustrated in the
    accompanying exhibition book, pages 44 & 45.

    Illustrated in the book Amelia Peláez, Alejandro Alonso,
    Editorial Letras Cubanas, Havana, Cuba, 1988,
    pages 20 & 21.

    Illustrated in the book Amelia Peláez, Ceramica, María Elena
    Jubrías, Ediciones Vanguardía Cubana, Fundación Arte Cubano,
    Escandón Editores, 2008, Sevilla, Spain, page 18.

    Illustrated in IMPORTANT CUBAN ARTWORKS, Volume Five,
    Cernuda Arte, Coral Gables, FL, 2006, back cover of catalog.

    To be illustrated in the upcoming catalog, IMPORTANT CUBAN
    , Volume Nineteen, Cernuda Arte, Coral Gables,
    Florida, available December of 2022.

    Cuban Art

    In Havana, the artist established her
    studio in her beloved home in La
    district and worked with quiet
    determination. During the 1940s,
    Amelia perfected her craft and
    grounded her signature cubist style.
    The artistic circles in Cuba were much
    captivated by her work, which was
    featured and lauded in various solo
    and group exhibitions where she
    garnered several salon prizes. She
    was one of the few women who were
    selected to participate in the
    important Art in Cuba show at the
    University of Havana in 1940. Her first
    retrospective took place at the
    Institución Hispano-Cubana de
    Cultura in 1943.

    Internationally, the artist was also
    garnering attention throughout the
    1940’s. In 1941, Peláez had her first
    one-person exhibition in New York
    City, Amelia Peláez at the gallery
    Norte. Her presence in this show, as
    well as in the corresponding
    publication of the same name, piqued
    the interest of the Museum of Modern
    Art (MoMA) in New York, and led to
    them purchasing several of her works
    in years that followed. 1943 marked
    her first showing at the prestigious
    MoMA, as part of the group exhibition
    The Latin American Collection of The
    Museum of Modern Art
    . This would be
    the first of 13 MoMA exhibitions which
    included the artist’s work.

    Cuban Art

    Moreover, in 1944, Amelia was one of
    the 13 artists included in the ground
    breaking exhibition, Modern Cuban
    at MoMA, curated by Alfred
    Barr. The exhibition, which showcased
    Cuban art as a highlight of the
    contemporary art world for the first
    time, presented 11 works of the artist.
    The show then traveled to twelve
    museums across the United States
    including, the National Gallery in
    Washington D.C. and the San
    Francisco Museum of Modern Art. By
    this time, Amelia played a vital role as
    a key disseminator of a new national
    culture that engaged not only with the
    island’s emerging modern art scene,
    but also, with the broader
    international narratives of modernity. The
    artist had generated considerable
    momentum. Works from her 1940’s
    period remain among the most
    favored by collectors, critics, and

    Cuban Art

    Cuban Art
    Amelia Peláez
    Interior with Balcony
    (Interior con Balcón), 1947
    mixed media on heavy paper laid down on board
    22 x 30 inches

    Exhibited at the Pérez Art Museum in Amelia Peláez: The Craft of
    , Miami, FL, Dec. 4, 2013 to Feb. 23, 2014, and illustrated
    in the corresponding catalog, page 91.

    Exhibited at the Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts in
    Cuban Art in the 20th Century: Cultural Identity and the International
    Avant Garde
    , Tallahassee, FL, Feb. 12 – Mar. 27, 2016, and illustrated
    on the cover and on page 81 of the accompanying catalog.

    Also exhibited in Cuban Art in the 20th Century: Cultural Identity and
    the International Avant Garde
    at the Coral Gables Museum,
    Coral Gables, FL, January 23 to April 23, 2017.

    Illustrated in IMPORTANT CUBAN ARTWORKS, Volume Ten,
    Cernuda Arte, Coral Gables, FL, 2011, page 22.

    Cuban Art

    In the most insightful analysis of
    [Amelia] Peláez’s stylistic sources in
    Cuban architectural decoration,
    artist Robert Altmann introduced the
    issue: “The paintings of Amelia
    Peláez are a conscious vision of the
    dominant role of ornament in
    relation to the theme of still life and
    of the elements of Cuban
    ornamental art of the last century.”
    (1) “In her own studio,” he
    observed, “Amelia Peláez
    accumulates vestiges of the colonial
    past: corinthian columns,
    mamparas, sculpted chairs, and
    other objects that remind her at
    every glance of a precise stylistic
    language [that of Cuban nineteenth-
    century ornamental art].”(2) About
    the specific connections between her
    style and the precise visual language
    of colonial architectural decoration,
    Altmann was one of the first to point
    out that her use of color and
    chiaroscuro suggests the filtration of
    light created by the medio punto,
    and that her linear arabesques
    construct a limited, static space
    defined by perforated screens
    parallel to the picture plane, not
    unlike the space found in traditional
    Cuban ornamental iron and wood
    works. He concluded that Peláez’s
    paintings were a carryover and a
    rehabilitation of forgotten
    ornamental tradition found in Cuban
    nineteenth and early-twentieth-
    century architecture and crafts.

    (1)(2)Robert Altmann, “Ornamento y
    Naturaleza Muerta en la Pintura de
    Amelia Peláez”
    , Orígenes, La
    Habana, No. 8, Invierno, 1945.

    -Professor Juan A. Martínez, Cuban
    Art and National Identity, The
    Vanguardia Painters, University
    Press of Florida, 1994, page 133.

    Cuban Art

    Her paintings were featured in the
    São Paulo Art Biennial in 1951 and
    1957, and she also participated in
    1952’s Venice Biennale. In 1958 she
    was a guest of honor and integrated
    the International Jury of the first
    Inter-American Painting and Drawing
    Biennale in Mexico. She has had
    major retrospective exhibitions at
    the Museo Nacional in Havana 1968,
    the Cuban Museum of Art and
    Culture in Miami 1988, and the
    Fundación Museo de Bellas Artes in
    Caracas 1991. In 1997, a major
    exhibition in Spain featured her as
    one of the three most influential
    Latin American women master
    artists in an exhibition entitled,
    Tarsila, Frida, Amelia (Tarsila do
    Amaral, Frida Khalo, Amelia Peláez).

    More recently, Amelia Peláez’s work
    has been celebrated in various
    significant exhibitions including
    Cuban Art and Identity, 1900-1950
    at the Vero Beach Museum of Art in
    October of 2013. In December of
    2013, a major solo retrospective on
    her work, Amelia Peláez: The Craft
    of Modernity, inaugurated the Perez
    Art Museum Miami. In 2016,
    Amelia’s work was prominently
    featured in the show Cuban Art in
    the 20th Century: Cultural Identity
    and the International Avant Garde,
    which opened at the Museum of Fine
    Arts in Tallahassee and later traveled
    to the Coral Gables Museum in 2017.
    In 2018, works by Amelia were
    featured at the Americas Society in
    New York City as part of the
    exhibition Lydia Cabrera and
    Édouard Glissant: Trembling
    Thinking, and from 2019 to early
    2020, she was featured in the show
    Where the Oceans Meet at the
    Museum of Art and Design at
    Miami’s Freedom Tower.

    Important examples of her paintings
    are present in the permanent
    collections of: Museum of Modern
    Art in New York; Art Museum of the
    Americas in Washington, D.C.;
    Museum of Modern Art in San
    Francisco; Museum of Arts and
    Science in Daytona Beach, FL;
    Bacardi Art Collection; Museum of
    Modern Art in Mexico City; Museum
    of Modern Art in Bogota, Colombia;
    National Museum of Fine Arts in
    Havana, Cuba; Museum of Latin
    American Art in Buenos Aires,
    Argentina; Museum of Fine Arts in
    Caracas, Venezuela, among others.

    Cuban Art

    Cuban Art
    Amelia Peláez
    Woman with Fish
    (Mujer con Pez), 1948
    oil on canvas
    52 x 40 inches

    Collection of Dulce María Loynaz del Castillo, poet;
    Private Collection, Dominican Republic.

    Exhibited in Miami Currents: Linking Collection and Community,
    Miami Art Museum of Dade County (MAM), Miami, Florida,
    October 30, 2002 – March 2, 2003.

    Exhibited in Amelia Peláez: The Craft of Modernity, Pérez Art Museum
    Miami, Miami, Florida, December 4, 2013 – February 23, 2014.

    Exhibited in Lydia Cabrera and Édouard Glissant: Trembling Thinking,
    Americas Society, New York, NY, October 9, 2018 - January 12, 2019.

    Exhibited in Where the Oceans Meet, Museum of Art and Design,
    Miami Dade College’s Freedom Tower, May 26, 2019–January 12, 2020.

    Illustrated in Cuban Art & Identity: 1900-1950, Dr. Juan A. Martínez,
    Vero Beach Museum of Art, Vero Beach, Florida, 2013, page 39.

    Illustrated in the book Amelia Peláez: The Craft of Modernity,
    René Morales and Ingrid S. Elliott, Pérez Art Museum Miami,
    Miami, FL, 2013, pages 92 and 93.

    Illustrated in the scholarly publication ARAS Connections, Amelia:
    Images of Mystery, the Transformation of Shadow in Women
    , Joan
    Golden-Alexis, Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism,
    Issue 3, New York, NY, 2018, pages 18 and 24, with critical text
    on page 24 and 25.

    Illustrated in “Lydia Cabrera and Édouard Glissant: Trembling
    Thinking,” Elvis Fuentes, ArtNexus Magazine, no. 111, Bogota,
    Colombia, Dec. – Feb. 2019.

    Cuban Art

    Copyright 2002-2022, Cernuda Arte. All Rights Reserved