Lot 27
  • 27

Mario Carreño (1913-1999)

350,000 - 450,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Mario Carreño
  • Retrato de María Luisa Goméz-Mena
  • signed and dated 43 lower right
  • duco on masonite
  • 41 by 31 in.
  • 104.1 by 78.7 cm


Acquired from the artist
Eduardo and Dori González, New York
Thence by descent


Havana, The Lyceum, Mario Carreño, November 1943


José Gómez-Sicre, Carreño, Havana, 1943, illustrated
José Gómez-Sicre, Art of Cuba in Exile, Miami, 1987, p. 53, illustrated

Catalogue Note

Sotheby’s is honored to be offering one of the key paintings from the Cuban Vanguardia movement: Portrait of María Luisa Gómez-Mena, by Mario Carreño.  This work, depicting a Cuban cultural icon, was shown at The Lyceum in Havana in 1943 and has not been exhibited in public since it entered the New York Collection of Eduardo and Dori González shortly thereafter.

Eduardo González was a successful Cuban businessman who travelled between New York and Havana. He, and his beautiful wife Dori, were friends and supporters of many of their Cuban artistic contemporaries. The couple and Mario Carreño soon developed a very close friendship. The González Collection grew to include several of Carreño’s paintings, including The Guitar Player, a vibrant painting in duco on panel sold at Sotheby's on May 27, 2003, for $465,000. Their friendship was such, that when Eduardo launched a new nightclub venture in Madrid in the early 1930s, he entrusted his friend Carreño to paint the murals. The Spanish Civil War soon put an end to this adventure, and Eduardo returned to America while Carreño went on to Mexico via Paris. In Mexico, he forged a close working relationship with the muralists, Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros.

Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros had been teaching in New York at the Experimental Workshop in the 1930s, where Jackson Pollock was one of the students.  At the workshop, Siqueiros advocated the use of new materials, encouraging experimentation with commercial paints and techniques instead of conventional art materials. One of these materials was duco, a fast drying enamel paint invented by DuPont for use in the automotive industry. Building on his experiences in Mexico, Carreño was able to secure two commissions for Siqueiros in Havana, where he assisted on the projects.

Carreño chose to use duco on wood as the medium in the depiction of his first wife, María Luisa Gómez-Mena. In this energetic portrait, Gómez-Mena emerges like a figurehead from a boat’s prow through waves of swirling pools of color. Around her figure, the pigments blend and bleed together in an almost random fashion, creating an effect of vibrating color which is not unlike those in Damien Hirst's spin paintings executed more than fifty years later. In exploiting this new medium, Carreño achieves a coloristic lyricism not seen before in modern painting.

The subject, María Luisa Gómez-Mena, was a woman of vision and character. She is sometimes referred to as “Cuba's Peggy Guggenheim.” Like Guggenheim, María Luisa came from a wealthy family and became a patron of many painters and writers, founding a publishing house where avant-garde poetry and politics were covered. Gómez-Mena changed the artistic panorama in Cuba, opening the first modern art gallery in Havana, Galería del Prado. At the gallery, she showed the best of the Cuban Vanguardia artists, amongst them Carlos Enríquez (who was married to American painter Alice Neel), Amelia Peláez, Fidelio Ponce de León, Mariano Rodríguez, Mario Carreño and Cundo Bermúdez. Gómez-Mena was also the patron of the groundbreaking 1944 Modern Cuban Painters exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.