Mario Carreño y Morales was born in Havana, Cuba in 1913, a year prior to the outbreak of World War I. His painting began at a very early age. The youngest of 10 siblings he had studied violin at the age of six but by the age of nine he won first prize for a pencil drawing of a portrait of his sister he entered in Havana’s newspaper El Mundo. He was quoted as stating “From that moment on I was liberated from the violin.” In 1925, at the age of 12, he had already achieved being welcomed into the Academia de San Alejandro, the oldest and most prestigious fine arts school in Cuba. When he was in his early 20’s, he moved overseas and enrolled in the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid, Spain and shortly thereafter the Ecole des Arts Appliqués, Paris, France as well as the Académie Julian.
Following the outbreak of WWII, Mario Carreño was forced to return back home to Cuba where he met the eccentric millionaire Maria Luisa Gomez Mena whom he married for only a short period of time. She provided him with support for his art and put him in contact with key figures in the art trade as well as financed his catalogs and exhibitions at that time. In the late 1940’s, Carreño travelled briefly overseas to Chile and to New York where he met artists such as Mondrian and Pollock, but his work never took on the pure abstract form those artists practiced. By 1958, he left Cuba for good upon receiving an invitation to teach in Chili due to harassment by The Military Intelligence Service (under the Batista dictatorship). It was there that Mario Carreño became a true authority in the Chilean art world. He was one of the founders of the Catholic University School of Art of Santiago and began producing large murals and exhibits worldwide.
By the late 1970’s, some in Cuba considered Mario Carreño to be a counter-revolutionary “gusano” and his name was removed from nearly all public spaces and art programs in Cuba. He passed away in Santiago de Chile in 1999 following several cerebral attacks and a diabetic coma.