Amelia Peláez

 

Amelia Peláez was born in 1896 in Yaguajay, in the former Cuban province of Las Villas (now Sancti Spíritus Province). In 1924 she graduated from San Alejandro, and exhibited her paintings for the first time, along with another Cuban female painter, María Pepa Lamarque, at the Association of Painters and Sculptors in Havana. Receiving a small government grant, she travelled to New York City in the Summer of 1924 and began six months of study at the Art Students' League. In 1927, after being awarded a larger grant, she began studying in France, while paying short visits to Spain, Italy, and other countries. In 1934, following a showing at the Salon des Independants, Pelaez returned to live in her mother’s colonial-style house in Cuba. In 1935, Pelaez had a solo exhibition at a women’s club in Havana called the Lyceum, which helped gain exposure of her new modernist Cuban style. During this time, in the mid-thirties, Peláez was experimenting with "patterns, shapes and geometric relationships of tablecloths and fruit dishes, laying the groundwork for the geometric constructions and rhythmic patterns that have been associated with her architectural ornamentation in her work in the forties”, it also shows her awareness of Cubism. In 1935-1936, Pelaez focused much of her paintings and drawings to the use of ink and pencil. The treatment of these drawings differs than her previous oil works, by distorting and exaggerating the figure with "sinuous line and light shading" that reference Cubism and European Modernism. Peláez received a prize in the National Exposition of Painters and Sculptors in 1938, and collaborated on several art magazines in Cuba, such as Orígenes, Nadie Parecía, and Espuela de Plata. In 1950 she opened a workshop at San Antonio de los Baños, a small city near Havana, where she dedicated herself, until 1962, to her favourite pastime of pottery. She sent her paintings to the São Paulo Art Biennial in 1951 and 1957, and participated in 1952's Venice Biennale. In 1958 she was a guest of honour and jury member at the First Inter-American Biennial of Painting and Printmaking in Mexico City,[2] although she pulled out of the raucous and controversial jury discussions based on what she reported to be “an openly Communist bias in the decisions.”[8] Aside from painting and pottery, she dedicated time to murals, located mainly at different schools in Cuba. Her most important works of this type are a ceramic mural at the Tribunal de Cuentas in Havana (1953) and the facade of the Habana Hilton hotel (1957).[3] She had a hard time selling her paintings as a living artists—she and her paintings, later named Amelias, achieved fame much later in life. Peláez died in Havana in 1968.

 

LA PINTURA DE AMELIA PELÁEZ.


La pintura de Amelia Peláez es una visión consciente del papel dominante del ornamento en relación con el tema de la naturaleza-muerta y el de los elementos del arte ornamental cubano del siglo pasado.

(…) En su propio estudio, Amelia Peláez acumula vestigios del pasado colonial: columnas corintias, mamparas, sillones esculpidos y otros objetos que le recuerdan a  cada mirada un lenguaje estilístico preciso (…). En las obras de Amelia Peláez, a las cuales nos referimos, dos clases de ornamentos coexisten. Los que constituyen una imitación estilizada de objetos arquitecturales o decorativos del siglo pasado cubano, y los que son enteramente libres, una escritura nueva nacida de la necesidad misma de llevar sobre una superficie plana y en acuerdo con las exigencias plásticas lo que antes existía solamente bajo forma de trabajo de artesano.

(…) La naturaleza-muerta que se escondía en la madera esculpida, en los vidrios de color y en los balaustres de hierro fundido, tenía una relación con los materiales que la soportaban. No podía unirse sin cambios, a las exigencias de la pintura al óleo o al gouache. El ornamento que la dominaba y le había dado nacimiento, no podía entrar en su totalidad en la pintura. Esta no recogía más que su idea: la función de dominación y de elemento creador.

Amelia Peláez está llevada así a inventar una nueva escritura, de la cual surge, como cosa natural que confirma la tradición, una naturaleza-muerta nueva, estrechamente ligada a esta escritura, y por su espíritu y método recuerda la naturaleza-muerta del sigloXVII nacida de la escritura ornamental del Barroco. Al igual que los arcaistas del Renacimiento italiano, Amelia Peláez introduce elementos todos hechos del arte ornamental del pasado. Desempeñan un papel especial en el interior del cuadro, como puntos de mira del espacio por sus curvas sugerentes de perspectivas, o como intermedios entre el abstracto y el concreto, como presencia de una realidad de la cual no quedan más que ruinas (…)

 

Art-Solido | Robert Altmann

1280119_Amelia_Peláez,_Untitled,_1966,_w
Amelia Peláez, Untitled, 1966, watercolor on paper, 11.5 x 9"