Tomás Sánchez - 20th c. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Thursday, July 2, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Overview

    Tomás Sánchez’s meticulously painted Meditador draws us into a lush tropical landscape that is suffused with a sense of the sublime. As is typical for Sánchez’s landscapes, a lone figure, dwarfed by nature, is shown in a state of meditation— here perfectly framed within a clearing in the tall forest and mirrored in the tranquil body of water. Painted in 1995, Meditador perfectly encapsulates the conceptual approach to landscape painting that garnered Sánchez early international attention upon winning the Joan Miró Prize in 1980. Channelling diverse art historical precedents such as Casper David Friedrich and the Hudson River School, Sánchez crucially presents us with a landscape of the mind – one that transcends geographical specificity in favor for a more spiritual, imaginary place in which man and nature are one.

    "For no one escapes the spell cast by Tomás Sánchez: the more we know his work the more we love it, and the more certain we are that if the world in fact deserves to be made again, it is because, as much as it can, it resembles his painting. "

    – Gabriel García Márquez



    Widely celebrated as one the most acclaimed contemporary Cuban artists working today, Sánchez emerged as an artist in Havana in the 1960s. While Sánchez was part of the of vanguard contemporary artists seeking to break away from staid conventions dominating Cuban art, he radically embraced the century-old tradition of landscape painting in the late 1970s — an anomaly within an art context both locally and beyond that was defined by experimental and abstract approaches to art making. Though Sánchez embraced a hyper-realistic painting style, he did not strive for geographical exactitude, nor did he seek to idealize stereotypically "Cuban" scenes. Rather, he sought to visualize the higher states of consciousness he achieved through meditation and yoga, which that at the time were notably considered dissident activity by officials.

  • States of Meditation

    “When I enter a state of meditation it’s as if I’m in a jungle or a forest; the mind enters into a great-exhilarated state, like an exuberant jungle where you can experience fear, desire, anguish – all types of emotions and feelings.  When I begin to feel that there’s a point of inner consciousness everything goes toward that place of quiet, that inner river. Everything goes toward that place of quiet, that realm of tranquility within the forest where there is a lake." –Tomás Sánchez

    Meditador perfectly encapsulates Sánchez’s distinct symbolic language to convey this interrelationship. Painting from memory, Sánchez presents us with a fantastical landscape that emerges from the rich intersection of inner reality and the concrete specificity of Cuba. As he explains, “The interior spaces that I experience in meditation are converted into the landscapes of my paintings…When I paint, I experience meditative states; through meditation I achieve a union with nature, and nature, in turn, leads me to meditation.” (Tomás Sánchez, quoted in Tomás Sánchez Artist Statement, 2016, online). 

    While Sánchez’s frequent depictions of bodies of water recall the surge of new reservoirs and artificial lakes that were built during the initial phase of the Cuban Revolution, he above all infuses them with spiritual meaning. Water in his paintings represent certain states of awareness that can be achieved through meditation — with rivers, for example, symbolizing the power of spiritual regeneration and shores standing in as the state all individuals strive for.

  • Hommage to Casper David Friedrich

    Sánchez powerfully re-interprets the compositional motif of the Rueckenfigur (figure seen from behind) within the context of his time and place; commonly employed by German Romantic painters such as Casper David Friedrich, the compositional device of portraying a person with theirback to the viewer offers us a means to vicariously experience the depicted scene.

    Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, 1818
    Casper David Friedrich, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (detail), 1818. Hamburger Kunsthalle. Detail of present lot


    As Edward J. Sullivan has observed of Sánchez’s paintings, "in a number of them a small male figure stands or sits with his back to the viewer, serving as a witness to the scene and evidencing the power of nature which, at any moment, could overtake the fragile human existence to exert its inherent majesty” (Edward J. Sullivan, Tomás Sánchez: Traversing Multiple Paths, online). Just like the lone meditating figure, the viewer in Meditator is drawn into a state of contemplation and introspection.

    • Provenance

      Private Collection, New York (acquired directly from the artist)
      Christie’s, New York, November 15, 2005, lot 39
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner



signed and dated “Tomás Sánchez 95” lower right; further signed, titled and dated "Tomás Sánchez "MEDITADOR" 95” on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
39 1/4 x 48 in. (99.7 x 121.9 cm)
Painted in 1995, this work is accompanied by a photo certificate signed by the artist.

Full Cataloguing

$250,000 - 350,000 

Sold for $399,000

Contact Specialist

John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th c. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 2 July 2020