(b Sagua la Grande, 8 Dec. 1902; d Paris, 11 Sept. 1982). Cuban painter. His father was Chinese and his mother of mixed African, Indian, and European origin, and Lam's career was appropriately cosmopolitan. After studying in Havana, he settled in Madrid in 1924, then in 1938 moved to Paris, where he became a friend of Picasso. He also met André Breton (whose book Fata Morgana he illustrated in 1940) and in 1939 joined the Surrealists.
In 1941 Lam sailed from Marseilles for Martinique on the same ship as Masson, Breton, and many other intellectuals who were fleeing the Germans. After his return to Cuba in 1942 he came increasingly under the spell of African and Oceanic sculpture, and following visits to Haiti in 1945 and 1946 he also began incorporating images of Voodoo gods and rites in his work. In 1952 he returned to Paris and from the 1960s also spent much of his time at Albisola Mare, near Genoa. In the 1970s he began making bronze sculpture. Lam's work successfully reconciles the artistic vigour of Latin America with the European avant-garde and with the powerful mystique of African and Oceanic tradition, fusing human, animal, and vegetable elements in menacing semi-abstract images. He won numerous prestigious prizes and his work is included in many leading collections.
Text Source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)