The Eternal Presence (An Homage to Alejandro García Caturla), 1944, Oil and pastel over papier maché and chalk ground on bast fiber fabric.

Wifredo Lam fled to Martinique with Breton, Masson and Lévi-Strauss in 1941. He then returned to Cuba where his work was influenced by savage rituals and the tropical jungle. He visited Haiti in 1945 and 1946 and discovered the Voodoo cult; later in 1946 met Gorky and Duchamp in New York and returned to Paris.

Lam established friendships with several Cuban artists, including the composer Alejandro García Caturla to whom he dedicated “The Eternal Presence”. Completed while Lam was in Haiti with surrealist poet André Breton, the painting’s themes are primitive and threatening, referencing Afro-Cuban culture, the Santería religion, and Carl Jung’s texts on archetypes of the collective unconscious. Wifredo Lam’s sources coalesce in this vast composition in which hallucinatory figures with animal heads and murderously seductive female attributes are enmeshed in a dense, tropical landscape.