The present painting is a true discovery. The current owner acquired it from a family member of a Spanish journalist who was close to the artist in the early 1930’s. It is believed to be a portrait of Eva, the artist's first wife. Wifredo Lam's catalogue raisonné reports just a few paintings from 1930 and 1931 of which only two or three works are known to represent Eva and their son, Wilfredo Víctor, named after the artist.
Very little is known about Eva whose real name was Sebastiana Piriz. In a book published in 1982 by Antonio Núñez-Jiménez, the author refers to information given to him by the artist and by his wife Lou Laurin in the late 1970s and the early 1980s. According to Núñez-Jiménez, Lam had met Eva--as he chose to call her--on a walk in Madrid in 1926 or 1927. “She was all dressed in black.” She was 23, he was 27. By 1929, she would give birth to a son. Sadly months after their marriage, “Eva contracted tuberculosis, our son as well. I had just enough to feed them, it took me a month to paint a painting and at the time I sold them for about $10. With that money I ran to the market and the pharmacy to buy the necessary food and medicines. When she could no longer move she would tell me from her bed how to prepare food…so when she died, I knew how to cook!” (1) Soon thereafter, their son Wilfredo would also die tragically. He was one year old.
As an evocation of Eva, the composition presents a very stylized woman sitting by a table near an open bay, under the moonlight and some passing clouds. The sharp contrast between light and shades gives the painting a dramatic character. Her rounded and generous arms and breasts fill the composition. The woman’s face in full profile looks profoundly melancholic as her gaze falls out of the frame, past the dark fruit she holds in her left hand, perhaps a symbol of the loss recently suffered by the couple.
(1) Antonio Núñez Jiménez, Wifredo Lam, La Habana, 1982, p. 93-94
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