Amelia Peláez del Casal was born in 1898 and studied at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes San Alejandro in Havana. She was given a grant and traveled to New York in 1924. She then moved to Paris in 1927 where she studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and l'Academie de la Grande Chaumière. Paris opened her eyes and she readily acknowledged her greatest influences to be Braque, Picasso, Matisse and her teacher Alexandra Exeter.
Upon her return to Cuba in 1933, Peláez truly came into her own as an artist. She was able to combine the blinding light and tropical colors of the Caribean with the lessons she had learned in Paris. Her work became areas of bright, almost flat color surrounded by black sinous lines. She often worked on paper as the medium allowed her to use a brush heavy with gouache to achieve the jewel-like compositions.
This period was a time of change and great energy in the artistic community in Cuba. The Cuban Vanguard movement was coming in to its own and Amelia was an integral part of the movement together with Mariano Rodriguez, Mario Carreño and Rene Portocarrero. La Vanguardia was brought to the international spotlight when the Museum of Modern Art in New York held the landmark exhibition Modern Cuban Painters in 1944.
Peláez bought a colonial style house in the La Vibora district of Havana – this was to be her base of operations for the rest of her career. The house, its contents and the neighborhood became her subject matter: still lives of fruit and fish on the lace tablecloths, the stained glass fan shaped windows above so many of the doors in the old houses. She created a short hand vocabulary of forms which simplified subjects to their minimum, thus the ladies on the balconies in the present painting as reduced to the most simple of forms behind the delicate tracery of the iron balconies, set against blazing color.
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