He was a drawer, illustrator, portrait painter, and dedicated observer of the nature and architectural variety of his city. He was capable of bringing together a work rich in nuance and rigour, almost academic in nature, with other exponents of the Cuban visual arts scene that were his contemporaries.
Sancti Spíritus, Cuba. Since the beginning of the 20th Century, the dabs and strokes of Oscar Fernández Morera (1880-1946) identify the pictorial style of Sancti Spíritus, the fourth Cuban village founded more than 500 years ago by Spanish colonizers.
This painter, recognised as the pioneer in the city, is, on top of this, identified as the favourite son of the visual arts and the first to colour the Yayabo, the river that has given life to this city (capital of the province of the same name) since it was established on its bank at the beginning of the 16th Century.
His contribution to espirituana arts has influenced generations of local creators who recognise ideas in his paintings that were ground breaking at the time, without considering him avant-garde.
On the contrary, his creative line stayed within the classical impressionist ambit and avoided the new trends that were arriving from Europe at the time. Journalist, Pastor Guzmán explains this in “Fernández Morera sigue moviendo pinceles” (Fernández Morera keeps moving brushes), an article published in the local press.
According to this author, the work is surprising considering his self-taught education and would later give place to more than a thousand works and a way of painting that for more than 130 years after his birth continues to influence those who today express art with colours.
His creations move between the extremes: from still lifes, to rural and urban landscapes, to illustrations for books, newspapers and theatrical sets for which he used techniques like crayon, oil, pastel, watercolour and ink. Also known as a leading copyist of works by famous painters, Fernández Morera practised all of the genres that were in fashion at the time. His work considers still lifes, portraits and urban landscapes where the capture of tropical light is emphasized.
According to art-historian, Luis Rey, he is an artist that without completely liberating the strokes and fragmenting the dabs in search of luminous effects in the impressionist style, was able to grasp the pictorial qualities of light.
In a time when romantic influences in Cuban painting were still felt, with their dim light of dusk, charged with melancholy, this creator managed to capture the luminous transparency of contrast, explains Rey in his book “Del entorno al signo” (Environment to symbol).
“In his seascapes, still lifes and all of his portraits, there are propositions that are bold for his time due to the colours and painting technique” claimed scholar Esbértido Rosendi to Prensa Latina.
Manuel Echevarría, also a journalist, emphasizes the painter’s unique vision of the city through his artistic journey, where he discovers unexpected details of his land. This occurs in pieces such as High Church from Plácido, Bridge over the Yayabo or Courtyard of the Colonial Museum.
His works are debated with pleasure among an audience interested in picturesqueness and the search for formal values that, though far away in time and space, he knew how to understand and incorporate into much of his work, wrote this expert.
Located in the centre of the city of Sancti Spíritus, about 360 kilometres to the east of Habana, the mansion where the painter originally lived houses one of the most important collections of the pictorial art sprung forth in the heart of these lands.
At the mansion is a permanent exposition of a collection of more than 200 works by Fernández Morera with portraits, urban landscapes of the city, still life sketches and drawings restored on more than one occasion in order to preserve them.
Today, the art gallery of the city that carries the name of the artist, also forms a referential cultural centre which carries out expositions, displays, competitions and Los Salones de la Ciudad (The Venues of the City), an event designated to confronting and promoting the work of the visual artists of the province.
The manor house where Fernández Morera spent his childhood houses pieces that are key in understanding the value of this figure as well as inspiring the creation of the generations of disciples that followed him. (PL)
(Translated by Sarah Claman)