The collection of foreign painters - Western European Painting, XVIII century


The most notable works in the National Museum’s collection of English painting are its eighteenth-century portraits. An acquaintance with the English portraits on exhibit in the Museum begins with Reynolds’s Miss Frances Kemble (Pic. 1), painted around 1783; concentrated in it are all the qualities peculiar to English portraiture.

Reynolds’s main rival was Thomas Gainsborough who painted his portraits with strokes as light as the gentle whiff of the breeze. That the artist was appreciated in official circles is proved by the fact that he painted a Portrait of Prime Minister William Pitt (Pic. 2).


The collection of foreign painters - Western European Painting, XVII century


The collection of Spanish art of seventeenth century, its most glorious period, ranks among the Museum’s richest. It includes recognized masterpieces by Zurbaran, Ribera, Murillo, Velasquez and several pictures by his pupil and son-in-law Juan Bautista Martinez del Mazo.

Luis Tristan in The Martyrdom of St Andrew (Pic. 1, 2) treats the subject in a realistic manner. The athletic figure of the saint personifies an indomitable spirit, but is perhaps too powerful for the aged man.


The Fayum portraits


The collection of foreign paintings in the National Museum of Cuba contains many pieces of exceptional quality and affords an opportunity for both specialists and the general public to acquaint themselves with the evolution of art and various countries. Presented in this album is but a part of the works housed in the Museum and it is only upon the most significant among them that we shall dwell here.

The earliest paintings in the entire collection are the so-called Fayum portraits done in wax paints (encaustic) on panel. This art, which evokes the same admiration in present-day viewers as it did in its contemporaries, was born in Egypt in the Roman period. The Fayum portrait not only witnessed to the high social position of the person depicted, but was meant to perpetuate him in the next world as well.

The National Museum of Cuba has nine such portraits dating the second to the fourth centuries. The earliest of these is Portrait of a Man  painted between 140 and 180 A.D. There is a wary, cautious look in the man’s eyes, and it is conveyed in a more realistic manner than that of the woman’s in another portrait.


The collection of foreign painters - Western European Painting, XV-XVI centuries

Picture 1           Picture 2

Western European painting is represented in the Museum by works of various national schools beginning with the fifteenth century. The Museum has in its possession two wings (Pic. 1) of an altarpiece executed in Aragon by an unknown master and bearing the influence of the Catalan Jaime Huguet.

Fifteenth century Flemish painting is exemplified by a triptych done by Hans Memling (Pic. 2, 3), in which the artist contrived to reflect all the moral power and self-confidence of the bourgeoisie of the time, and not only in figures of the donors, represented on the wings, but in the handling of the traditional subject of the Virgin and the Child itself.


Cuban Painting (XX century, the second half)


The 1950s were a tempestuous period in both the political and cultural life of the country. March 10, 1952 – Fulgencio Batista assumes dictatorial powers; July 26, 1953, the centenary of José Marti’s birth – a detachment led by Fidel Castro storms the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba. This was a milestone on the long road that began with the disembarkation from the Granma and the descent from the peaks of the Sierra Maestra and ended in the triumph of the Revolution. A Biennial of Spanish-American Art was organized jointly by Franco’s Council for Spanish-American Countries and Batista’s National Institute of Culture , but it met with opposition from the progressive-minded artistic circles of Cuba. Almost all the painters in the 1950s leaned toward abstractionism.