Wifredo Lam has long been recognized as one of the most important artists of Latin America, and for some time he has been world famous. Born in Cuba in 1902, he was the eighth child of a Chinese immigrant and a mulatto mother. As Fouchet remarks, “The temptation to explain the nature of the artist’s work by his mixed origins is very strong” (p. 26). While not beguiled by this temptation, Fouchet nevertheless does full justice to the formative influences—particularly the Afro-Cuban—nurtured by this cultural-ethnic background, including a sense of magic and mystery in the powers of nature. These deep-rooted images nourished his work through all his prolonged international experiences (including fourteen years in Spain and extensive sojourns in Paris). His strongest artistic influence came from Picasso, whom he met in 1938 and by whose friendship he quickly found himself at the center of the contemporary art movement, including Surrealism.
Returning to Cuba in 1942, Lam began the series of totemic and mythical paintings, including “The Jungle,” on which his fame largely rests. He has also written and published a considerable amount of poetry.
Although there is an extensive bibliography on Lam, the present work is the most complete to date, copiously documented and lavishly illustrated. The text is both readable and authoritative, as well as critically perceptive. The valuable supplementary matter includes a numbered and illustrated catalog of the paintings, an index of titles and locations, a comprehensive bibliography, and a list of exhibitions, individual and collective.