Wifredo Lam, born Wifredo Óscar de la Concepción Lam y Castilla in Sagua la Grande, Cuba, a sugar farming province in central Cuba. Lam began studying art at the age of sixteen at Escuela de Bellas Artes, just outside of Havana. Following five years of art studies, he moved overseas to Madrid and began training under Fernando Álvarez de Sotomayor y Zaragoza. While studying with many nonconformist painters during that period his technical approach took on a more primitive composition.
After travelling around the Spanish countryside during the 1930’s Wifredo Lam moved to Paris, France and quickly became friends with Pablo Picasso who introduced him to many fellow artists including Joan Miró, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque and Fernand Léger. Picasso had a strong influence on Lam. While Lam had already aimed towards simplicity and focused on Cubism, his work began to take on a more angular form.
Following the outbreak of World War II Lam, like many others, was captured. He was imprisoned for 40 days in France before being allowed to return home to Cuba. His Afro-Cuban technique became even more enhanced during that period of his life due to the oppression still remaining in his country and Wifredo Lam began to add mythology and totemism into his simplistic style.
Travelling between New York, Cuba and France during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, Lam finally settled permanently in Paris in 1952. By 1964, he was awarded the Guggenheim International Award, a global art competition recognizing international achievement. At the time of his death in September 1982, Wifredo Lam had more than a hundred personal exhibitions around the world and was very highly respected by his peers.