Rene Portocarrero is one of the leading figures of the arts in Cuba
Rene Portocarrero was born in Cerro, Havana, on February 24th, 1912. He was the youngest son of a large, middle-class and wealthy family that favored his early artistic interests. From an early age he showed his talent for painting. Between four and thirteen years he lived in a house near the Paseo del Prado (Prado Walking Path), where the traditional carnival festivities were held. Incessantly he painted large landscapes of the countryside, where he would often during childhood and adolescence.
In 1923 Portocarrero exhibited for the first time a landscape in the Hall of Fine Arts of the Association of Painters and Sculptors of Havana. In 1924 he received some painting classes at the Havana´s Villate Academy. In 1926 he enrolled the course of elementary drawing at the San Alejandro National School of Fine Arts. His artistic temperament did not adapt to this kind of traditional academic learning and continued to paint by his own. It was very much like most of his contemporaries, self-taught.
In 1930 Portocarrero become economically independent of his family and worked as a clerk at a European tourism company. It is precisely in the 30s that Portocarrero began to become known in artistic circles. In 1934 he held his first personal exhibition in Havana Lyceum Society. In 1935 he participated in the National Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, the first official salon organized by a state agency, in which also participated the avant-garde painters like Victor Manuel, Amelia Pelaez, Carlos Enriquez and Fidelio Ponce.
He collaborated with Mariano Rodriguez in the Free Study for Painters and Sculptors led by the painter and cartoonist Eduardo Abela, intended to transform traditional methods of teaching art at San Alejandro.
Rene Portocarrero taught free drawing to 1943 in Havana Prison, in whose chapel he made a mural painting titled San Francisco de Paul. He worked in the series Hill Interiors , Feasts and Figures for an Imaginary Mythology that had great weight when it comes to define his style. He also painted two paintings for the Bauta Church: Crucifixion and The Burial.
In 1944 he painted a series of rural landscapes as well as covers of Origenes magazine, directed by Jose Lezama Lima. He made his major solo exhibition with 140 works in the Hall of Science at the University of Havana.
Rene Portocarrero in 1945 made the series Wizards and he travels to New York, where he remained nearly a year. In 1947 he addressed the topic of festivals in a wide range of pastries colors. In 1949 he performed acts under the influence of abstraction and initiates a period, with several variants, lasted until about 1953.
In 1950 he began practicing pottery with Wifredo Lam, Mariano Rodriguez, Pedro Martinez and Amelia Pelaez workshop in Santiago de Las Vegas. In 1951 he received an award for Tribute to Trinidad in the V National Painting, Sculpture and Engraving.
In 1960 he worked in the Theater Figures Mural in the lobby of the Covarrubias Hall of the National Theater in Havana. The first retrospective exhibition of Portocarrero (1933-1960) at the Jose Marti National Library was organized. In 1961 he began his series of landscapes of Havana. He was a delegate to the First National Congress of Writers of Cuba.
In 1965 he attended his personal exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City. In 1966 he exhibited a series of 27 oil paintings Portraits of Flora, a staff room, invited by the authorities of the XXXIII Venice Biennale. In 1967 a major retrospective was organized, with more than 300 works in the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana. In 1982 the exhibition of Rene Portocarrero called Capital Works was opened at the National Museum of Fine Arts.
Portocarrero received numerous honors and awards, among which the Order of Culture of Poland, the highest honor given by that country to the leading foreign intellectuals; Council Member of Honor of the International Association of Artists of UNESCO in 1979, the Felix Varela Order of First Grade the Council of State of the Republic of Cuba was granted in 1982 was imposed the Aztec Eagle, the highest Mexican award. He died in Havana on April 7, 1985.