Gattorno: A Cuban Painter for the World

by Sean M. Poole

Reviewed by Christopher Klim, The US Review of Books

"Gattorno is the type of forgotten yet important painter that all art-lovers dream of discovering; a hidden master with an impressive provenance."

G.K. Chesterton once said, "The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot in one's own country as a foreign land." For an artist, abandoning your subject is essential in order to gain perspective. For Cuban master and modernist painter, Antonio Gattorno, it was perhaps his wisest calculation to leave home and greatest source of consternation. Although he would return many times to reinvent the subject matter of his homeland, this duality helps define the life of Gattorno, which is so brilliantly illuminated in the pages of the biographical and artistic retrospective Gattorno: A Cuban Painter for the World.

Gattorno left his native Cuba, first as a young man on scholarship and later at the suggestion of Ernest Hemingway, who befriended Gattorno and immortalized him in a monograph. However, all seemed to be forgotten about this modern surrealist, who has fallen from the lexicon of important painters. Turning the pages of this smartly organized and lovingly structured book, one wonders if it was either the artistic jealously and petty provincialism of his rivals or was it his own lack of self-promoting that buried his legacy. Some of his contemporaries, such as Dali, held the pulse of the media and courted the in-crowd with calculated precision, while Gattorno chased thoughts and depth of ideas, retreating into the solitude of his work and the understanding that he would never be dogged by poverty.

At times, Gattorno was experimental. He reached, in his own words, for "messages in his work," but for however rich and complex his paintings became, the lines and colors were always accessible. As it is impossible to describe Van Gogh's sense and use of color, it is difficult to attach anything but visual experience to the plates revealed in this collection. Gattorno should, as the author describes upon first encountering the work, be hanging in the great museums of the world. Although he had at times been widely shown and recognized, he died with the majority of his work held within his personal collection.

Sean M. Poole is a devotee of Gattorno's paintings and has dedicated years, along with his wife Terri (who is a niece of the artist), to the resurrection of Gattorno's memory and the ascension of the Gattorno into the pantheon of artists. It is a worthy cause, and this coffee table book eloquently states the case. Appropriately bilingual, the book contains insightful introductions, a clear biography, key documents and memorabilia, as well as vivid reproductions of the artist's work. It will make you wish that you had a Gattorno hidden away in your attic and might become a part of Gattorno's public resurgence.

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The best kept secret in the history of 20th Century Art is one of the founders of the Modern Art movement in Cuba, a man who fished with Hemingway and feuded with Dali. Throughout his career his work was well known and his genius apparent so that, like both his friend and his rival, he was known merely by his surname, Gattorno.

Hemingway wrote a book about him. ESQUIRE, TIME and LIFE magazines, the New York Times, and art lovers of the 1930s, 40s and 50s, knew of Gattorno and the quality of his work. Throughout his career his exhibits were favorably reviewed. He was a vital part of the New York City art scene for more than 30 years. He was compared with the greatest painters, living and dead. 

Gattorno: A Cuban Painter For The World by Sean Poole is the first book on this artist since Hemingway's in 1935. Published bilingually it contains beautiful reproductions of Gattorno's paintings, rare photographs, catalogs, letters and the complete text of Hemingway's original monograph. Poole, a freelance writer with experience in entertainment and the fine arts, discovered Gattorno in 1994. He spent 10 years researching the painter's life and work.

His essay is informative and entertaining. Additional commentary was contributed by Juan A. Martinez and Armando Alvarez-Bravo, both experts on Cuban art, and by Bernard Ewell   the internationally recognized authority on Dali.

If you don't want to go through Amazon, which some people do not, we appreciate that as Amazon takes quite a percentage away from us. We will accept payment through PayPal as a gift to a friend unless you want a receipt    (for business purposes) and the total cost of the book will be $50.00 including USPS postage Media Mail.

Send it to Terri Cabral

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​Gattorno - A Cuban Painter For The World - ​ by  Séan M. Poole

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The Bacardi Mural - 1937 - Gattorno -  very interesting story spelled out in the book. It started in NYC in the Empire State Building and ended up in Miami, FL

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For MORE about the artist follow this link   Art By Antonio Gattorno .

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