VICTOR MANUEL GARCIA
Victor Manuel was one of the founders of the modem art movement in Cuba, a profound transformation resulting from the influence of the School of Paris and break with the Spanish-based Academics. In the context of this new movement, there was a re-vivification of national values and particularly Cuban themes which were reflected in the arts. In this framework Victor Manuel united international stylistic influences with landscapes and images from the heart of Cuba.
In 1910 Victor Manuel was enrolled in the San Alejandro School of Art and was invited to be an assistant teacher in drawing the following year. He participated in the annual Salon from 1917 – 1925 and signed his work “Manuel Garcia”. His work from this period reflects a strong influence by his teacher and mentor Leopoldo Romañach. He had his first one man show in 1924 at which point he was looking to distance himself from the complaisance of his academic training. Many reports reached Cuba after World War I regarding new artistic developments in Europe so he booked passage there in 1925 with the help of friends.
At the Louvre museum he had his first contact with the Great Masters and was particularly moved by the Italian Renaissance. He attended the Autumn Salon and the Salon of the Independents where he was particularly impressed by the work of Modigliani, Kisling, Vlamink, Utrillo, Matisse and Laurencin. While in Paris he started signing his work “Victor Manuel”. He returned to Havana in 1927 and had his first personal exhibit and went on to participate in the “Arte Nuevo” or “New Art” show which marked the beginning of modem painting in Cuba.
In 1929 Victor Manuel returned to Europe for one year and it was during this time in 1930 that he painted his most celebrated work, “Gitana Tropical”, which has become the symbol of his entire oeuvre. In it he depicts a young dreaming country girl with a window behind her looking out to a Cuban landscape in typical Victor Manuel style with a path winding between trees with dark trunks. This would come to represent hisnewly developed and distinctive style revolving around two central themes: portraits of women and landscapes.
Among his major exhibitions are: Annual Salon, Havana (1917-1925); Gallery San Rafael, Havana (1924); Personal Exhibit at the Association of Painters and Sculptors (1927); Exhibit of”New Art” (1927); Lyceum (1931); Salon de Bellas Artes (1934); “Gitana Tropical” received the award at the Second National Exhibit of Painters and Sculptors (1938); Panamerican exhibit at the New York World Fair (1939); “Cuban Art” exhibit, Havana (1940); “Modem Cuban Art”, Guatemala (1945); Personal exhibit, Havana (1952); Retrospective show with the Annual Salon (1959); Retrospective at the National Museum (1969); “Homage to Victor Manuel”, National Museum, Havana (1979); “Victor Manuel: Innovator of Cuban Painting” Cuban Museum of Art and Culture, Miami (1982);“Victor Manuel Garcia (1897-1969)”, Jose Marti Memorial, Havana (October 1997-January 1998)