René Portocarrero

(b. Havana, 1912 - d. Havana, 1985)

René Portocarrero attended classes at the Villate and San Alejandro Art Academies from 1924 to 1926, and continued refining his techniques through self-taught methods. His first individual exhibition was held at the Havana Lyceum in 1934. In 1937, he became a consultant for the Free Studio for Havana Painters and Sculptors and collaborated with the magazine Verbum, his first contact with the group of artists and intellectuals who rallied around José Lezama Lima. He illustrated and wrote for the two magazines lead by the poet: Espuela de Plata (1939-41) and Orígenes (1944-56). In 1943 he painted his famous series Interiores del Cerro (Interiors in El Cerro), Festines (Feasts), Figuras para una mitología imaginaria (Figures for an Imaginary Mythology), which defined the most important characteristics of his work. In 1951 he received the National Painting Award for his oil on canvas Homenaje a Trinidad (Tribute to Trinidad), the forerunner of his “Havana Landscapes.” He published Máscaras (Masks), a collection of twelve drawings inspired by the Cienfuegos carnival, and painted his important series Color de Cuba (Cuban Color) in which small devil-like African figures are juxtaposed with popular saints, ornamental carnival imagery and Havana landscapes. In 1964 he received the Sambra International Award for the best series submitted to the 7th Sao Paulo Biennial Exhibition and two years later his Retratos de Flora (Flora’s Portraits) were shown at the 33rd Venice Biennial. Among his last series are Carnavales (Carnivals), Figuras sedentes (Sitting Figures), Transfiguración y fuga (Transfiguration and Fugue) and Madres eternas (Eternal Mothers). 

Selected Works