Gattorno: A Cuban Painter for the World
by Sean M. Poole
Arte Al Dia

"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 art and the understanding that he would never be dogged by poverty.

At times, Gattorno was experimental. He reached for, in his own words, "messages in his work," but for however rich and complex his paintings became, his 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 his ascension into the pantheon of artists. It is a worthy cause, and this coffee table book eloquently states the case, which has also won the photo/art category at the London Book Festival. 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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