Wifredo Lam (Cuban, 1902-1982) Les Jumeaux, II 1963-1969

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Lot 32*
Wifredo Lam
(Cuban, 1902-1982)
Les Jumeaux, II

Sold for £ 351,988 (US$ 438,383) inc. premium
Wifredo Lam (Cuban, 1902-1982)
Les Jumeaux, II

signed and dated 1963
oil on burlap

120.7 by 111.7 cm.
47 1/2 by 44 in.

This work was executed between 1963 and 1969.


  • This work is accompanied by a photo-certificate of authenticity signed by Lou Laurin-Lam.

    We are grateful to Mr Eskil Lam for confirming the authenticity of this work.

    Collection of the artist, Paris
    Private Collection, Europe (acquired directly from the above)
    Sale: De Vuyst, Lokeren, Art Ancien, Moderne et Contemporain: Première Vacation, 22 October 2011, Lot 307
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

    Kessel, Galerij Dobbelhoef, Wifredo Lam, 25 olieverfs-childerijen, 15 pastels, etsen en litho's en Joan Miro, 30 kleuretsen en litho's, 1978
    Nantes, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Wifredo Lam, Voyage entre Caraïbes et avant-gardes, 2010, p. 120, no. 48, illustrated in colour

    Michel Leiris, Wifredo Lam, Milan 1970, p. 212, no. 168, illustrated in colour (in an intermediary stage)
    Max-Pol Fouchet, Wifredo Lam, Paris 1976, p. 243, no. 548, illustrated in black and white (in an intermediary stage)
    Max-Pol Fouchet, Wifredo Lam, Barcelona 1989, p. 263, no. 580, illustrated in black and white (in an intermediary stage)
    Lou Laurin-Lam and Eskil Lam, Wifredo Lam: Catalogue Raisonné of the Painted Work, Volume II, 1961-1982, Lausanne 2002, p. 317, no. 69.39, illustrated in black and white (in an intermediary stage)
    Jacques Leenhardt, Wifredo Lam, Paris 2009, p. 237, illustrated in colour

    Born in Cuba in 1902 to a Chinese immigrant father and mother of African and Spanish descent, Wifredo Lam's internationalism would play an integral role in the development of his style. Les Jumeaux, II, 1963 – 1969 with its paired back palette of ochre and earthen tones is a consummate example of the artist's work, combining the aesthetic and theoretical power of Surrealism and Cubism with Lam's own aesthetic flavour.

    In 1918, Lam began his studies at the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Havana, where he would be trained in academic painting, however the academic conservatism of the Bellas Artes did not inspire the artist and in 1923, with the aid of a scholarship Lam would travel across the Atlantic to Madrid, setting the scene for the beginning of his artistic development. In 1938, Lam moved to Paris, where he would meet some of the leading artists of the time including Pablo Picasso, a great admire of his work, Picasso would go on to collect many of his paintings. Marking a significant turning point in his career, it was in Paris that the artist would come into contact with African Art and Surrealism, which would have a huge impact on the development of his work. With the outbreak of World War II, Lam was forced to flee France and return to Cuba, only returning to Europe after the war. This powerful encounter between Cuban culture and avant-garde Europe would allow Lam to produce some of the most powerful and striking images of the twentieth century.

    An impressive and sophisticated work, created in two stages over a six-year period, Les Jumeaux, II (The Twins) incorporates the aesthetic qualities learnt during his time in Europe with elements of Cuban and Lam's own personal culture. Bound together in a totemic and disconnected embrace, reminiscent of Chinese symbols, the present work derives much of its inspiration from Cubism, the geometric composition and palette invoking Pablo Picasso's Girl with a Mandolin, 1910. While Picasso's deconstructive masterpiece retains its figurative femininity, Lam uses symbolism to create a purely representational image, one that looks beyond the female form. Inspired by the Cuban Santería religion, which finds its origins in Yoruba and West African traditions as well as savage Spanish Catholicism, the twins known as Ibeye – the catholic equivalents of Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian – are depicted. Descendants of the god of lightening, the Ibeye are sacred among the Yoruba and are considered to be the guardians and protectors of priests and houses. An enigmatic image, Lam reaches between the familiar and the unknown, projecting the viewer into an irrational and imaginary world.

    A giant of the avant-garde, Wifredo Lam's work can be found in the collections of public and private museums across the world including; The MoMA in New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana; the Museum of Modern Art in Brussels; the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. among many others. In 2016 his work was celebrated in the landmark retrospective at the Tate Modern, London to great acclaim.
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