Amelia Peláez’s Still life

Amelia Peláez brings Cuban art to Florence

Amelia Peláez is visual arts pioneer in Latin America. Like Frida Kahlo, she is so revered that her paintings are called Amelias, her first name only. In the 1940s she developed her signature cubist style, where her compositions focused on the visual examination of Cuba’s traditional colonial architectural elements -- the house, the garden, the neighborhood and the city. Her free flowing thick black lines, which outline areas of intense color, recall Cuba’s baroque architecture. They can be seen in her Still life, which she donated to the city of Florence in 1966. In 1931-1934, Amelia studied color dynamics and design with Russian constructionist and co-founder of the Art Deco Movement, Aleksandra Exster. Throughout the course of her career, Peláez was a favorite of Alfred H. Barr, founding director of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, who recognized Amelia as a pioneer of Cuba’s Primera Avantguardia and purchased several of her works for the museum’s permanent collection.
Amelia Peláez’s Still life was given to Florence following Palazzo Vecchio’s 1968 exhibition ”The Cubans”. Its architectural detailing and lapis blue background immediately conjure René Portocarrero’s observations: ”Peláez was the first to know how to take our local color and transfer it to pictures of great beauty and masterpieces in visual arts.” Restored and exhibited in 2016 for ”Beyond Borders”, a show at Florence’s Twentieth-century Museum to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Arno’s disasterous flooding.