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Rare Carlos Sabrino Cuban painting found at auction
Carlos Sobrino was born in Havana, Cuba in 1909. He was one of the most important artists of his time.

By: Michael Lawrence

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- Like the modern artists of WW2 era Germany, master Cuban artist Carlos Sobrino was almost erased into obscurity by the new Castro regime. Early on, Sobrino chose exile rather than live under the escalating oppressions of Fidel Castro. For this perceived slight, his paintings were removed from the museums, banned from exhibitions and there would be no more mention of him in future publications. Not until at least the gift of a small Sobrino painting to the Ramos brothers (Roberto and Carlos) in 1982, unleashed their artistic passions that survive to this day. Inspired by Sobrino, the Ramos brothers, now also exiles, focused on the works of the generations of artists who thrived in the pre-1958 cultural environment.

The brothers overcame every imaginable challenge. Initially Cuban Government oppression, censorship, and very limited resources, then distance, the ravages of time and tropical environment. Their mission, to rescue both the artworks and archive the art history of the Cuban Republic (19th & early 20th century). Much of their efforts now available in print, “Great Masters Of Cuban Art” Ramos Collection. I highly recommend it.

My introduction to the artist began about three years ago during a trip to Cuba. This trip “Sobrino” was the artistic buzz word, and the treasure hunters were either digging for “Sobrinos” or selling one. At that point I had never heard of him, so I unfortunately turned down a couple small oils and a portfolio of his lithographs. By the time I left, he was forever lazed into my brain. On subsequent trips to Miami galleries, and meeting Roberto, I saw what an amazing artist he was. In my mind I placed him with the greats of the Vangaurdia. No wonder my eyes lit up when I stumbled on his name while perusing a obscure small town internet auction in Central Connecticut.

I traced it back to a Manhattan Gallery liquidation about 5 years ago. Not much has been written as of yet on this artist, but he is a rising star. I saw his work in Miami galleries from $10,000 to $40,000 and this piece humbles them all.

The sale was two weeks out yet with no bids yet. From that point on, I checked 3-4 times a day until a couple days before the sale, still no bids. Covering all bets, I registered as both a phone and internet bidder and anxiously awaited that day. When the call came, there were still no bids. I figured the snipers were waiting in the wings and it would be a last minute war.

The auctioneer opened, asked for bids from the floor, silence. He asked again and again, still silence, so I opened for the minimum. There were a few quick bids from the floor and it fell to me. Now the auctioneer was asking for further bids, going once, going twice, he pauses, (I think now the internet snipers were going to dive in) “Last call” he yells, the next few seconds seemed an eternity, but BOOM, the hammer dropped and I was the high bidder.

You hear about them all the time. Lost and languishing treasures discovered in obscure places. To find one, every pickers dream. A Declaration of Independence stuffed behind a picture at a Pennsylvania flea market, a Jackson Pollock in a thrift store, an Imperial Qing Dynasty vase in a London attic, Cuban Grand Master, Mario Carreno’s, Fuego en el Batey on a New York bedroom wall. This allegorical Cuban masterpiece by Carlos Sobrino is untitled, but I’ve labeled it “Dawn, American style,” is clearly his best work. Granted, it could be a sunset, but I invoke finders privilege. Carlos is not here to explain it to us.

Carlos Sobrino was born in Havana, Cuba in 1909. He was one of the most important artists of his time. He was well known for his artwork in all of Latin America, in Europe, and in the United States. He obtained the First Prize in painting and the First Prize in sculpture at the Hispano-American Biennial of Madrid, Spain in the year 1950.

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