Fidelio Ponce was born in the city of CamagUey in 1895. He had a strange life, devoid of material interests, which produced a body of work with very personal characteristics, representing a case that stands alone, outside of the general parameters typical of the first generation of modern Cuban artists, to which he indeed belonged.
His formal education was erratic and brief. He entered the San Alejandro Academy of Fine Arts in 1913. His attendance was less than conventional: he attended for some time those classes in which he had some interest, then dropped them without explanation.
In one form or another he remained tied to Academic artistic principles until 1918, when he disappeared from Havana. According to some reports, he went to live in some villages in the interior of the country and survived by doing commercial decoration works. In 1923 he returned to Havana but lived incognito in areas at the outer limits of the city and survived doing very humble jobs and giving art classes to children.
He started painting assiduously in 1930; his first one-man exhibit, at the Lyceum in 1934, was considered an artistic accomplishment. The following year, his painting “Las Beatas” received a prize from theNational Salon of painting and sculpture; he received other awards at the Modern Art Salon of 1937 and at the National Salon of 1938 with the work “Los Niflos”. He painted a mural at the Jose Miguel Gomez school in Havana, and exhibited at the Delphus Studio Gallery ofNew York. The Museum ofModern Art in New York acquired his painting “Mujeres”.
In 1940 he disappeared again. During the last part of his life he painted very intensely. His work seems to intimately reflect his own existence: an unstable personality, bohemian nature and a body which suffered because of poverty, bad habits and illness.
Fidelio Ponce’s oeuvre is characterized by a sense of continuity and unity: the human figure, the landscape, and (more rarely) the still life, always received the same technical treatment: heavy impasto, elongated subjects which are hardly distinguished from the heavy overall atmosphere and very limited choice of colors. Faithful to a well-defined aesthetic, the artist may have been influenced by El Greco and Modigliani, mostly in the stylization of the human forin and in the sense of sadness and nostalgia which permeated the work.
In comparison with other members of his generation, Ponce’s work is less connected to national themes. His point of reference is connected to a sensitivity which is oblivious to external connotations, even to the light and colors of the tropics, in the expression of his own inner world.
Fidelio Ponce de Le6n died in Havana 1949.