For Students

In Focus: New Acquisition Emilio Sanchez

I don't intentionally mean for them to be either abstract or pictures of houses. It's sort of a play on design.

Emilio Sanchez
Cuba and United States, 1921-1999
La Fortaleza
1970-75
Oil on canvas
Gift of the Emilio Sanchez Foundation, 2011/2.63

Emilio Sanchez was born into one of Cuba’s most prominent families but lived in Cuba for only a short time. Although he said “I’ve always been a terrible Cuban,” his interest in the light and color of the Caribbean comes from his early connection with that region. Before he settled permanently in New York in 1952, he studied architecture at the University of Virginia, demonstrating an interest in buildings, the subject of many of his paintings. At the time he painted La Fortaleza, Sanchez, who traveled extensively, was often in the Mediterranean, and it is there he found the inspiration for this image of a fortress, likely in Morocco.

Sanchez came of age as a painter in the 1950s, the heyday of Abstract Expressionism. As you can see here, however, he worked in a minimalist rather than expressionist idiom, reducing his architectural subjects to pure blocks of vibrant color. His quiet, spare, oversized details of the built environment have more in common with Georgia O’Keeffe and Charles Sheeler. In the 1990s he turned his attention from the Caribbean and Mediterranean to his adopted home of New York, capturing storefronts and other street scenes reminiscent of the urban photographs of Berenice Abbott and the more monumental architectural abstractions of Judith Turner.

Recently UMMA and several academic museums in the US benefitted from the generosity of the Emilio Sanchez Foundation when it donated much of Sanchez’s life work. The gift to UMMA of eighty paintings and lithographs, along with other recent acquisitions from Cuba such as two folk paintings given by Dr. James L. Curtis, expand the collection in the direction of the Caribbean, an exciting growth area for the Museum.

Pamela Reister
Curator for Museum Teaching and Learning

This new acquisition will be on view in the first-floor connector between the Museum’s historic wing and the Maxine and Stuart Frankel and the Frankel Family Wing from April 15-July 8, 2013.