Loading Spinner

Wifredo Lam (1902 - 1982)



February 10, 2005
London, United Kingdom

More About this Item


signed and dated 1949

oil on canvas


156 by 126cm.

61 3/8 by 49 5/8 in.




Washington D.C., Pyramid Galleries, Wifredo Lam: A Decade 1942-1952, Oils, Gouaches, Drawings, Graphics, 1963, illustrated


Max-Pol-Fouchet, Wifredo Lam, Barcelona 1976, p. 236, no. 437, illustrated

Max-Pol-Fouchet, Wifredo Lam, Barcelona 1989, p. 256, no. 469, illustrated

Lou Laurin Lam, Ed., Wifredo Lam, Catalogue Raisonné of the Painted Work, Vol. I, 1923-1960, Lausanne 1996, p. 138, no. 30, illustrated in colour & p. 416, no. 49.09, illustrated


H.H. Benitez, Saarbrücken

Galerie Albert Loeb, Paris


"From this point on, a new form began to appear alongside his figures, often in the background, which slowly evolved to establish a new plane. This flat, unarticulated form appears in Composition of 1949. It is a black, arched shape standing in front of a portal at the corner of a room. Its flat emphatic silhouette contrasts with the composition's fugitive space... This experience, he later recorded, was his first awakening to the multiple dimensions of existence." (Lowery Stokes Sims in Lou Laurin Lam, Ed., Wifredo Lam: Catalogue Raisonné of the Painted Work, Volume I, 1923-1960, Lausanne 1996, pp. 137 & 138)

Lam's pseudo-figurative, dream-like imagery reflects his desire to forge a synthesis between his Afro-Cuban heritage and the modern European aesthetic: in particular Surrealism and the art of Picasso whom he had met in Paris in 1938. These two artists were lifelong friends who shared a passion for African sculpture, and Lam's assimilation of distinctive tribal forms into Composition is a poetic reflection of this. The finely painted organic 'figures' float in a dream-like void of mysterious fantasy, their increasingly complex fusion of forms and motifs mirroring the artist's growing awareness of self.

As explained above, Composition was a breakthrough painting for Lam, which saw the introduction of a new spatial dimension providing an important visual and compositional gateway between the metaphysical world of the artist's fantastical visions and our own experience of reality. The additional planes of space permit a constant stream of thought here between our space, the picture surface and the guarded portal at the back of the composition.

Request more information

Contemporary Art, Part 1

February 10, 2005, 12:00 AM EST

London, United Kingdom

For Sale from Sotheby's