Robaina's plantation

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Coche Mambi (Havana)

                   How many times have you walked by this train car while strolling along Calle Oficios in Old Havana and wondered what it was doing here? What is it? I know I've done it at least dozens of times, it's right next to the beautiful Palacio de Gobierno. On this particular day, by mistake, I came upon the museum from behind through the tiny street it's on, the Callejón de Churruca. I was lucky enough to find it open and couldn't help but take a peak.
                   It was restored by the Office of the Historian of the City which is in charge of all the restorations going on in Havana. The train car was the Presidential Carriage that was used by the President of Cuba to travel across the country. It's been restored to exactly how it was back in the time when it was in use with bedrooms for the President and his wife, bathrooms, refrigeration for the food used in the kitchen, a dining room and the President's desk. The car was built by the American Car and Foundry Company on behalf of the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company in the United States and brought to Cuba from Florida by ferry in December of 1912. The train was originally sent to Horatio Rubens, president of the railway company in Cuba who used it to make their trips of inspection and control of the railways but he made it available to the government of the Republic shortly after receiving it.
                  It's a very luxurious setup, especially for the time. The visit took just a few minutes, it's not that large a space. There was no charge for admission, I tipped the lady that gave us the tour. It was interesting for me to see this small piece of Cuban history. The museum was opened on November 19, 2011, in tribute to the 174th anniversary of the inauguration of the Habana-Bejucal railroad stretch.

Calle Oficios
between Plaza de Armas & Plaza San Francisco

Receiving Room



Dining Room


Cuban Artists (Palacio de los Capitanes Generales) Havana

                           On a recent trip to Havana I visited The Palacio de los Capitanes Generales once again and came upon a room that was filled with artwork done by Cuban Artists dated 1865-1980. As I took my pictures I didn't realize that I've had encounters with some of these artists in my travels through the discovery of Cuba. Amelia Pelaez (1896-1968) has a mural in front of the Habana Libre hotel that's the length of the building which I've entered dozen's of times. Miguel Melero (1836-1907) has a large mural within the main chapel at the Colon Cemetery which I stood in front of recently. Armando Garcia Menocal (1863-1942) painted the ceiling of the Hall of Mirrors within the Revolution Museum that I visited years ago....and being a Novice Stamp Collector I've handled many Cuban Stamps with pictures of works of art that were done by several of the Artists within the Palacio. I'm sure I've seen more of these artist's works traveling through Havana. Below is a short history of the artists and most of the paintings that I found on display.

Palacio de los Capitanes Generales
Plaza de Armas

Autorretrato circa (1865) Federico Fernandez Cavada (1831-1871)

Fernández Cavada was born in Cienfuegos, Cuba. His mother, Emily Howard Gatier, was an American from Philadelphia, and Isidoro Fernández Cavada, the father, was Cuban. When his father died in 1838, his mother returned to Philadelphia with Fernandez and his 2 brothers. He went to school in Philadelphia and eventually worked as a civil engineer and topographer for the Panama Canal. He fought for the Union Army during the Civil War participating in the battles at the Second Battle of Bull Run, the Battle of Fredericksburg and the Battle of Gettysburg. After the American Civil War he moved back to Cuba eventually fighting for the Cuban Liberation Army under the provincial government presided by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes. In 1870 he was named Commander-in-Chief of all the Cuban forces. He was captured in 1871 and was sentenced to die by firing squad. shortly afterwards.

Bodegon (1892) Miguel Melero (1836-1907)

Another example of Miguel Melero's work hanging in the main Chapel within The Colon Cemetery in Havana.

Miguel Melero was born in Havana in 1836, he attended the Art's school Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes "San Alejandro" in 1850 eventually going to Europe, traveling through Spain, France and Italy to further his artistic studies. He returned to Cuba in 1868 when the War of Independence broke out. He became director of the San Alejandro school, the first Cuban, and in his position allowed women to study there, something that until then was not permitted.

Campina (1907) Eduardo Morales (1868-1938)

Carretero (1917) Eduardo Morales (1862-1938)

Eduardo Morales was born in Havana and studied at the San Alejandro Academy. He interrupted his studies to go on to fight in the war for independence becoming an army captain and fighting alongside Antonio Maceo. When the war was over he joined the national police force and worked there until he retired, afterwards returning to art. He was famous for Cuban landscapes.

Dama Tejiendo (1889) Guillermo Collazo (1850-1896)

La Señora Malpica by Guillermo Collazo on a 1972 Cuban postage stamp

Guillermo Collazo  was born on June 7, 1850, in Santiago de Cuba onto an established colonial family. His talents were noticed at a young age while in school. At age 17 his parents put him on a ship bound for the United States to stop him from joining in the 'Ten Years' war. He arrived in New York with no money and no knowledge of the English language, and yet, he eventually earned enough to open his own art studio. He returned to Cuba in 1883 but left for Paris five years later where he would die on September 26, 1896. In 1899, after the War of Independence, his family brought his remains back to Havana.

Dos Mujeres Negras (19th century) Victor Patricio Landaluze (1830-1889)

La Mulatta y La Chaperona (19th century) Victor Patricio Landaluze (1830-1889)

Victor Landaluze was born in the Basque region of Spain in 1830 and came to Cuba in 1863, working there most of his life. He was famous for his caricatures and humorist drawings. He was opposed to Cuban Independence and it showed in his work, a lot of his art was politically or socially driven. In Havana he was an illustrator for several magazines and founded the satirical newspaper Don Junipero. Although he preferred drawing illustrations or cartoon sketches, he excelled in creating realistic paintings depicting Cuban life in the colonial era.You may still find some of his paintings at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana.

El Charco del Mamey (1948) Domingo Ramos Enriquez (1894-1956)

Domingo Ramos Enriquez was born in Havana province November 6, 1894. He went to the San Alejandro school in 1907 and went to the San Fernando school in Madrid in 1918 on a scholarship. He returned to Havana to become a professor at the San Alejandro school and by 1949 became the Principal. 

El Hijo (1980) Jose Braulio Bedia Valdes (1959-)

Braulio Bedia Valdes was born in Havana on January 15, 1959. He studied at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes "San Alejandro" and finished his art studies at the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) in Havana, graduating with honors. After residing in Mexico for some time he moved to Miami where he currently lives.

El Viejo de Las Naranjas - Leopoldo Romanachy Guillen (1862-1951)

Pescador (20th century) Leopoldo Romanachy Guillen (1862-1951)

Leopoldo Romañach was born on October 7, 1862 in Villa Clara Province, Cuba. His mother died when he was 5, he spent the next 9 years in Spain, his father having sent him there. After returning to Cuba his father wanted him to take a different course in life, even sending him to New York to learn the language and commerce but he eventually choose art and dedicated the rest of his life to it even becoming a professor of color theory at San Alejandro school. In 1950 he was given the National Order of Merit of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes by the Republic of Cuba. The school "Escuela Provincial de Artes Plásticas “Leopoldo Romañach” in Santa Clara, Las Villas, Cuba was named after him. He died on September 10, 1951 in Havana.

Esciena de Campo (1917) Armando Garcia Menocal (1863-1942)

El Triunfo de La Republica (1920) ceiling above the Hall of Mirrors - Revolution Museum

Armando Menocal was born July 8, 1863 in Havana. He started his art studies at San Alejandro academy before going to Spain in 1880 for further schooling. He left his education to return to Cuba in order to join the Liberation Forces in the Cuban War of Independence. He earned the rank of Commander of the Liberating Army and eventually became the Assistant to General Máximo Gómez. In his paintings he depicted many of the scenes he witnessed firsthand during the war. He was famous for his large-format paintings and was contracted to paint the 22 meter canvas on the ceiling of the Hall of Mirrors in what at the time was the Presidential Palace. He died on September 28, 1942, in Havana.

Gestaltica (1946) Rene Portocarrero (1912-1985)

Brujo (1945) (sold by Mutual Art) Rene Portocarrero (1912-1985)

René Portocarrero was born in Havana on 24 February 1912. He was a Cuban artist known internationally. Like most of the artists in this post, he began his artistic education at the San Alejandro academy. He left school early considering himself self taught. His first exhibition was in 1934 in Havana and his first overseas show in New York city in 1945. He worked with Wifredo Lam in 1950, met with Fidel Castro in 1961 and was friends with Peggy Guggenheim a famous American art collector. Rene died in Havana April 7, 1985. 

La Llegada (1977) Aldo Menendez Gonzalez (1948-)

Aldo Menéndez González was born in the city of Cienfuegos on December l9, 1948. He is one of the main initiators of photo-realism in Cuba. Five years after leaving Cubanacan National School of Plastic Arts, his paintings and drawings were integrated in 1972 in the permanent collections of the National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana. The Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Cuba awarded him in 1987 the National Order of Cuban Culture. He does not reside in Cuba at the moment.

Lo Gloriosos dias Presentes (1980) Servando Cabrera Moreno (1923-1981)

Servando Cabrera Moreno was born in Havana, May 28, 1923  on Obispo Street. He was a graduate of the San Alejandro Academy (1942), took classes at the Art Students League in New York and attended La Grande Chaumiere in Paris. He was a supporter of the Cuban Revolution and many of his paintings depict Cuban peasantry. Today his work can be found in museums, galleries and private collections all over the world. He experimented with different styles; traditional, abstract and expressionist, capping it off with a period of erotic art which galvanized his place as one of the best Latin American artists of his time. He died in Havana on September 30, 1981.

Muchacha (1932) Fidelio Ponce de Leon (1895-1949)

Fidelio Ponce de Leon was born on January 24, 1895, in Camaguey, Cuba. He studied at the San Alejandro Academy in Havana from 1913 until 1918. He is considered part of the "Vanguardia" movement in Cuban art but unlike the others, he never studied in Europe. The Museum of Modern Art in New York is among the museums containing examples of his work. He died in Havana on February 19, 1949.

Nina (date unknown) Eduardo Abela (1889-1965)

Eduardo Abela was born in San Antonio de los Baños in the Artemisa Province of Cuba in 1889. He graduated from the San Alejandro Academy of Fine Arts in 1921 and traveled through Europe during the next decade spending time in Spain and France. As well as a painter he became a comics artist and upon his return to Cuba he created the character of "El Bobo" ("The Fool") as a protest against the Machado government drawing him for the 'El Diario de La Marina' (1930-34). He returned to painting afterwards concentrating on Cuban themes. He died in Havana in 1965.

Paisaje (1929) Juan Gil Garcia (1879-1932)

Juan Gil Garcia was born in 1879 in Madrid, Spain and emigrated to Cuba at the end of the 19th century. He went to the Asturias School while in Havana and by 1920 was considered one of the most popular painters in the country painting landscapes, fruits and flowers of Cuba. The famous Bohemian Magazine granted him seven cover pages which made him even more famous among the Cuban population. An ample collection of his works are preserved at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana as well as in other museums outside the island. He died in Cuba in 1932.

Paisaje Cubano (1879) Esteban Chartrand (1840-1883)

Esteban Chartrand was born in Matanzas on October 11, 1840. He is famous for his romantic versions of the Cuban countryside and the multi-cultural inhabitants and lifestyles of rural Cuba. He died at a relatively young age but became one of the most significant in Cuba at that time. He traveled regularly to Europe and the United States until his death from tuberculosis in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1883.

Parque de La Fraternida (1959) Angel Acosta Leon (1932-1964)

Angel Acosta Leon was born in the La Ceiba district of Habana in 1932, he was one of ten children. His artistic style was that of surrealism and used animals, humans and machines in much of his paintings. After attending the Catholic School for Poor Boys he entered the San Alejandro Academy in 1950 graduating in 1956. During the 50's he worked at a bus station as a cleaner while at school and always had a fantasy of being a bus driver. Angel Acosta Leon died in December, 1964.

Peces (1954) Amelia Pelaez (1896-1968)

Amelia Pelaez mural (1957) on the front of the Habana Libre Hotel (the then Havana Hilton Hotel) in Havana

Amelia Peláez del Casal was born January 5, 1896 in Yaguajay in the Sancti Spíritus Province of Cuba. She was an important Cuban painter of the Avant-garde generation. She moved to the La Víbora district of Havana in 1915 and entered the San Alejandro Academy a year later graduating in 1924. With a grant from the Cuban government she was able to travel to New York City that Summer and begin a six month course at the Art Students' League. She later went to study in France and traveled to other countries while there returning to Cuba in 1934. 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). Peláez died in Havana in 1968.

Portrait of Antonio de Veytia y Zayas (1887) Jose Arburu y Morell (1864-1889)

'La Chula' by Jose Arburu y Morell on a 1976 Cuban Stamp

José Arburu Morell was born in Havana in 1864. As with many of the artists listed on this post, he also studied at the San Alejandro Academy from 1877 until 1886. During his time there he went to Spain to enroll in the Real Academia de San Fernando in Madrid. He was a great master of coloring, as well as a great portraitist. He died at a young age in Paris in the year 1889, a victim of typhoid fever.

Portrait of Juana de Mola (20th century) Federico Martinez (1828-1912)

Portrait of 'Maria Wilson' (1887) by Federico Martinez on a 1975 Cuban Stamp

Federico Martínez Matos was born in Santiago de Cuba in 1828. His style has been described as a mixture of Spanish realism and the Italian idealism. There isn't anything else I could find out about this artist. The Museo de las Bellas Artes (Museum of the Fine Arts) in Old Havana contains several of Federico's works.

Retratto Femenino (1944) Carlos Enriquez Gomez (1900-1957)

Carlos Enríquez was born in Zulueta, Las Villas, on August 3, 1900. His family sent him to the United States to learn Engineering but he enrolled in the School of Fine Arts in Pennsylvania returning to Cuba in 1925 with his future first wife American painter Alice Neel. He later traveled back to the United States and then to Europe before having showings and winning awards in the late 1930's. Carlos Enríquez has been one of the main exponents of the Cuban avant-garde and died in Havana on May 2, 1957.

S T (circa 1950) Jose Maria Mijares (1921-2004)

Jose Maria Mijares was born in 1921 in Havana. He began his artistic studies in 1936 at the San Alejandro Academy. His first major showing was in 1944 at a national exhibition in Havana's Capital building winning second prize. Although he became popular regardless of the poor conditions at the time when it came to artistic expression, he quit painting when Fidel Castro came to power until he left Cuba in 1968, establishing himself in Miami. He had become world renowned for his Abstract compositions in the 1950's but went back to Figurative painting, choosing Cuban landscapes as his favourite subject matter until he died in Miami in 2004.

Vista del Morro (1913) Aurelio Meloro (1870-1929)

Aurelio Meloro was born in the city of Havana in 1870 and at 12 years of age entered the San Alejandro Academy when his father was the director. He didn't decide to cultivate painting and sculpture as a profession until later on in life. He explored all the genres of the fine arts but excelled in Portrait Painting, he painted for almost all of the Official Corporations and Private Societies of the Republic, as well as in mansions of main families. His bodies of work are too numerous to mention in this brief introduction but it's safe to say he's quite famous in Cuba. Aurelio died on March 24, 1929, in Havana.