by Dr. José Rodeiro (2013)

An Introduction to Duende Theory:

In Federico Garcia-Lorca’s acclaimed essay Play and Theory of the Duende (1933), Duende is defined as one of three incarnations of artistic inspiration, rousing human creativity.  In the essay, Lorca identifies three distinct spiritual entities that inspire all human creativity: 1). muses, 2). angels, and 3). the duende.   As the essay progresses, Lorca defines and compares each of these supernatural art-inducing dynamos.

Federico Garcia-Lorca [Spain] 1898-1936


The muses are essentially the nine (9) daughters of Mnemosyne (1-a) (Goddess of Memory), who were simultaneously conceived as a result of Zeus’s rape of their mother.   All nine are the devoted companions of their half-brother Apollo (God of Beauty, Light, Poetry, Music, Purity, and the radiant sun) (1-b).  For approximately 90% of all artists, these nine sisters are the inspirational source of human creativity, ingenuity, and art; especially, given that reminiscence (“memory”) is generally the intended subject-matter (or theme) of most art and creativity.   This widely held view that art replicates or reveals memory is a hypothesis apprehended and corroborated by the aesthetic theories of Wordsworth, Proust, Tolstoy, Dewey, Freud, Breton and most leading art theorists, who relate art to experience(s). Moreover, even the recent counterargument of Amnesis theory, which has been proposed by Dr. Nicomedes Suárez-Araúz (the Bolivian poet and aesthetic theorist) purports that amnesia (“the loss of memory”) is the true-source of human artistic creativity; thereby, brilliantly inverting (turning-inside-out) the remembrance/recollection aesthetic(s) of Wordsworth, Proust, Tolstoy, Dewey, Freud, Dalí and Breton.


Goya Saturn, 1820 - 1824

Sergio Villamizar Saint Poke, 2015

With so many renowned devotees (both negative and positive) insisting on a clear connection between art and memory/non-memory; and with such a strong (well-argued) philosophical advocacy of a doctrine of art as “experience,” “memory,” “reverie,” or “the forgotten,” throughout art history, a universal focus on the past for inspiration is generally evident in, e.g., Idealism, Classicism, Academicism, the Grand-Manner, Romanticism, Symbolism, Surrealism, as well as all forms of contemporary Geometric-Abstraction, Conceptual Art, Minimal Art, Hard-Edge Art, Text-based Art, Amnesis Art, and generally most ART.


Rembrandt The Slaughtered Ox, 1655

The artists devoted to the muses [(the daughters of Mnemosyne, the Goddess of Memory (1-a) are: Apelles, Philoxenos of Eretria, Helen of Egypt, Giotto, Masaccio, Uccello, van der Weyden, early-Michelangelo, Raphael (i.e.,"The School of Athens"), Holbein the Younger, Poussin, David, Ingres, Delacroix, Meissonier, Dame Elizabeth Southerden Thompson (Lady Butler), Rosa Bonheur ((i.e., “The Horse Fair”),  Cezanne, Picasso, Rivera, Grant Wood, Barnett Newman, Warhol, Jaspar Johns, Rosenquist, Judy Chicago, Claudio Bravo, Judy Baca, Mark Tansey, Komar & Melamid, Maya Lin ((i.e., “The Vietnam War Memorial’s” polished black granite list of dead US combatants in Southeast Asia), Sandy Skoglund, José Rodeiro’s "9/11" or Kara Walker.  These muse(s)-inspired artists create by focusing exclusively on every aspect of memory, i.e., remembered, or historical events, and things-of-the-past (historical records, relics, artifacts, objets d’art, allusions-to-art and/or readymades).


Duda Penteado Red Rembrandt, 2011

Polychrome Ivory, 30" x 33" x 15"

Occasionally muses are overwhelmed by their Apollonian routine duties (1-b), and they unintentionally forget to inspire, or they (bravely or foolishly) give artists free-reign, thereby permitting artists to seek the forgotten (e.g., amnesis lost objects) through unremembered oversight, “omission(s),” or by not inspiring; thereby they inadvertently permit artist to access traps, voids, wormholes or lacunae (gaps or lost-realms containing, or not-containing, missing things and objects).  Hence, by their thoughtless omissions, both positive and negative muses indirectly allow all forms of memory (reminiscence, reverie, and recollection) and all forms of forgetfulness (not recalling, overlooking, avoidance, amnesia and/or disregard), forgetting lost things, events, persons, memories and objects, etc).   Nevertheless, since 90% of artistic creative inspiration derives from muses; Lorca (in his Duende essay) argues that all these positive and/or negative memory-based approaches to human creativity and art are academic (art historical and scientific) distractions or ruses that lead both artists and audiences far away from what is (“in his opinion”) truly sublime in art: the duende!


Francisco de Goya Witches Sabbath​ (The Great He-Goat), 1820-23, Museo del Prado, Madrid


Lorca’s harangue against all forms of creative inspiration enthused by muses is matched only by his disdain for angelic inspiration’s impact on creativity and the arts.   Unlike backward-looking muses, angels base their inspiration on the future, because their inimitable form of creative inspiration is generally farsighted, prophetic, and telepathic; their inspiration presages future-aspiration(s). Angels hover around certain childlike, innocent, playful and hyper-imaginative “future-oriented” artists (i.e., Fra Angelico, Fr. Lippi, young-Botticelli, da Messina, Cranach the Elder, Murillo, Blake, Turner, Monet, Dufy, Chagall, Matisse, Delaunay, Miró, Reverón, Frankenthaler, Elizabeth Murray, Chihuly, Julie Mehretu, Ultra Violet and Salvatore Tagliarino, etc., etcetera), carefully guiding them toward the future, as well as salvation.  On the other hand, the duende eschews both the past (muses) and the future (angels); because the duende’s only concern is the here-&-now (“the present”).  For Lorca, the duende is “creation made act!”(2.a.)

Susan Rothenberg Untitled, 1987, charcoal, oil, and graphite, 43 3/4" x 30"


Grace Hartigan Cleopatra's Headdress, 2004 Lithograph, 22" x 14.5"

Defining the Duende:

The exegesis of the term duende stems from Lorca’s fascination with Gypsy culture.  In the essay Play and Theory of the Duende (1933), Lorca draws clear-cut distinctions between Galician (northern Spanish) duendes (goblin-gnomes, leprechauns, or “Mr. Nobody”) and the unanticipated yet ever-present skeletal duende of southern Spain.  As a native of Granada, Lorca was intimately familiar with Andalusian gypsy-culture; its aesthetic values, musical dance styles, and mystique.  His poems and tragedies were inspired by a powerful Granadaean duende.  This southern duende, Lorca describes as an Andalusian specter dwelling, “from the rock of Jaen to the shell of Cádiz” (2.b.).


Robert Motherwell Elegy to the Spanish Republic N0. 110, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NYC.

Interestingly, both the playful Galic elfin duendes and the life-threatening southern Gypsy “Old Kronos” duende are madcap reckless calaveras, who rebuke prudence and caution, and insist on risk and daring. The tiny fat Galician northern duende (although in some accounts, this odd pixy is described as being slight, lithe, and silver-tawny, shimmering like an extraterrestrial) is merely mischievous, unruly, and has no interest in inspiring art or creativity.  On the other hand, cloaked in a red mantle, the hot-marrowed bony Andalusian duende is a looming red-skeleton, who without ceremony (scythe and hourglass in hand(s)) targets beleaguered, tormented, suffering, struggling or harassed artists prompting them (in their desperate anguish and high-anxiety) to heights of astonishing creative brilliance.


Käthe Kollwitz's Woman with Dead Child


By forcing a creative individual to instantaneously confront both “the present” as Present and “death” as Death, this mysterious red skeleton incites great art (i.e., Lascaux Cave, Altamira Cave, Grunewald​​​​​​​​, Durer’s prints, Tintoretto, Artemisia Gentileschi, Goya’s late-works, Géricault’s "Raft", ​Van Gogh​, R. A. Blakelock, A. P. Ryder, Romero de Torres, Nolde​, Kollwitz, Goitia, Orozco, Siqueiros, Bacon, Motherwell,​ Pollock, ​Kline​, Rothko, Antonio Saura, Manolo Millares, ​Rafael Canogar, Ana Mendieta​, Susan Rothenberg, ​Anselm Kiefer​, etc.).

The History of Duende:

Lorca’s historic and revolutionary examination of the tri-fold nature of creativity evolved from his thorough investigation and meditation on Andalusian Gypsy’s  cante jondo [aka canto-hondo (“deep song”)] and, its relationship to various specific Andalusian Gypsy dance-forms.  However, beyond his innate Gypsyphilia; also at play within Lorca’s discovery of the triumvirate of human creative-inspiration (muses, angels, and the duende) are his own feelings of being unfairly targeted, victimized, tormented and harassed by his former lover and friend Salvador Dalí.   Hence, during the early 1930s, another ostensible source, which presumably affected the sudden advent of Lorca’s duende theory was his apparent fixation with the art and ideas of his ‘old’ college-friend and “crush:” Salvador Dalí (3).   Despite the fact that Lorca had grown estranged from Dali; due to alleged insults purportedly aimed at the poet within Dalí’s and Luis Buñuel’s collaborative Surrealist film: An Andalusian Dog, 1929.   Something in that film had greatly grieved and insulted Lorca to the point that he left Europe to attend Columbia University (New York City, NY) from 1929 to 1930. Even before his departure, Lorca was aware of the evolving aesthetic formulation of what would eventually become Dali’s “Critical Paranoid Method”(4).    Starting in 1928 with his Anti-Artistic Manifesto, Dalí asserted that great art sprang from courageous confrontations and reactions against overwhelming uncertainty, terror, fear, pity and dread, thereby yielding hyper-imaginative forms of profound and sublime art.  Overall, Dali derived his theory from three philosophical sources: Aristotle’s notion of catharsis as well as Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s and Edmund Burke’s views on the nature of the sublime.  Also, of great significance to him was Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, 1900, which acknowledged that the obscure iconology of dreams divulged subconscious manifestations of suppressed memories.


Nevertheless, despite these philosophical currents, Dali’s foremost artistic interests were (for the most part) psychological or concerned by-and-large with the visual perception of symbols; and not with defining (as Lorca identified from 1930 to 1934) three extraordinary incarnations (or “spiritual entities”) responsible for causing or rousing all human acts of creativity: muses, angels, and the duende.  Each of these singular supernatural beings utilized distinctive divine powers and approaches for provoking, conjuring, or evoking artistic creativity.    Beyond his profound Gypsyphilia, an attempt to out-theorize Dalí about the nature of art — may have unavoidably obligated Lorca to reveal all three supernatural agents that inspire every aspect of artistic-creativity.  In addition, Lorca’s daring disclosure was designed to challenge Dali’s preliminary articulation (in 1928) of what would become (by 1934) his Paranoiac-Critical Method.   The heroic need to throw down an audacious philosophical and theoretical gauntlet may have been the key factor, propelling Lorca’s insightful (“ground-breaking”) ideas about the inherent nature of duende.

Salvador Dalí and Federico Garcia Lorca at an amusement park, 1925.

For Lorca, the vital impulse driving genuine and authentic creativity is Death (itself); for him, the duende is an embodiment or specter of Death as a living, breathing, dark or extreme exaggeration of Henri Bergson’s élan vital, which Bergson had articulated (earlier in 1907) as an anti-Darwinian evolutionary theory that inadvertently derives from Friedrich Nietzsche’s buoyant primordial “life-force” concept that Nietzsche envisioned as the embodiment of Will (an “incarnate Will”) behind The Will to Power.   In Lorca’s essay, this Nietzschean/Bergsonian WILL is what animates “The Girl of the Combs” to sing incredibly or exceptionally “without a voice . . . but, with duende.”  Accordingly, the duende (when unleashed) reveals the sublime sublimity concealed within art’s marrow and blood . . . giving free rein to the internal immanent (or inner) dark matter of art.  Hence, as stated throughout Lorca’s essay, the duende is never transcendental (or concerned with “The Without”); instead, it is immanentist, deriving from “The Within” (5a).

Evolving from Nietzsche’s and Bergson’s ideas; the German phenomenologist, Martin Heidegger argued that real "freedom" necessitates a deep meditation (or direct confrontation) with death.   According to Heidegger, only a face-to-face awareness of death can breed authentic-freedom (accounting for an innate or inherent sense-of-freedom within each human being). Heidegger's ideas are almost identical to those of Federico Garcia-Lorca's Theory of the Duende (1933), ascribing a "here-and-now" (present) confrontation with Saturnal Death as the source of the rarest and most precious form of artistic creativity: duende, which signifies a mano-a-mano encounter with Death, prompting true FREEDOM and mega "creativity."   Thus, the duende is simultaneously both the nemesis and envoy of Thanatos.  In Lorca’s 1933 essay, the duende is a primal and terrifying manifestation of the creative-impulse, originating through (or by means of) an artist’s valiant face-to-face encounter (in the “Present”) with “Death”(5b).

In 1930, Lorca departed New York, heading back to Spain with a brief stop-over in Cuba.  According to Ben Belitt, it was during his Havana sojourn that he began gathering and developing the initial working-draft of Play and Theory of the Duende.   Frequently, between 1930 and 1934, Lorca’s slowly (or leisurely) amused himself with the budding draft(s) of the provisional duende theory, which was his main theoretical aesthetic pursuit in the early-1930s, as well as providing a lively topic of conversation among close friends and acquaintances.


Dalí with José Moreno Villa, Luis Buñuel, Ferderico García Lorca and José Antonio Rubio Sacristán at the student hostel, 1924 or 1925.

After three years in Spain, in 1933, Lorca shipped on the Spanish passenger-liner Conte Grande from Barcelona to Buenos Aires, Argentina; to attend the American premier of his play Blood Wedding.  During that voyage, he completed the tragedy Yerma and put the finishing touches on the Duende-essay.   While in Buenos Aires, he contacted his old friend (that he had first met in Barcelona in 1927), the acclaimed Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who was serving as Chile’s Consul General in Argentina.  Neruda was present for Lorca’s lecture entitled Play and Theory of the Duende, which was delivered at the Sociedad Amigos del Arte, Buenos Aires in 1933(6).   It was during this Buenos Aires lecture that Lorca revealed and defined his innovative theory pertaining to three paranormal incarnations that are directly responsible for all human artistic inspiration and creativity in all the arts: muses, angels, and the duende.  Another major consequence of his brilliant 1933 Buenos Aires lecture would be Lorca’s enduring partnership with Neruda in advocacy of “the duende” as a rare and distinctive quality in all the arts.  Lorca’s close association with Neruda in promoting the theory will be elaborated below in the section beneath, which is titled: “A Growing Awareness of the Duende in Visual Art after 1934.”

Contrasting the Duende with Muses & Angels:

In his 1933 Duende essay, Lorca argues that most art is created via inspiration from the muses, who are obsessed with (or by) the past.    For Lorca, “muse-inspired” art is created via memories, experiences, preconceptions, or by way of previously known things and ideas.  According to Lorca, this need for artistic-reminiscence preoccupies Classicism, Academicism, Romanticism, all forms of Geometric-Abstraction, and generally most ART (approximately 90% of all art is of the muses).   We find the muses lingering behind Lord Byron’s and William Wordsworth’s Romantic idea that, ‘Poetry [“Art”] is "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility"(7.a.).   In the visual arts, such muse-engendered or muse-stimulated artists include Apelles, Giotto, Masaccio, Uccello, Perugino, Michelangelo, Raphael, Poussin, David, Ingres, Delacroix, Cezanne, Picasso, Rivera, Botero, Mel Ramos, Alex Katz, Richard Estes, William Bailey, Peter Haley, etc.  In fact, most artists (in all fields of creativity) universally belong to the muses’ group --- the list is enormous, and could include, e.g., Grant Wood, Barnett Newman, Judy Chicago, Judy Baca, Mark Tansey, Maya Lin, Nikolai Buglaj, José Rodeiro’s murals (and his 9/11 painting) or Kara Walker, although Rodeiro’s other famous 9/11 image that is titled Firefighter (or The Dying Stockbroker), 2001, actually has the duende; probably because that work erupted instantaneously out of the artist’s frantic ashen despair on September 11, 2001.


José Rodeiro 911-Firefighter, Ink & Watercolor, 8.5" x 11," 2011, collection of Ella Rue.


Goddess Kali, Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, Singapore

In terms of their features, characteristics, and peculiarities, the muses’ criteria as well as that of angels and the duende are not exclusive or restricted to western European or American art and culture.  In actuality, these three divine embodiments of inspiration originate in India; and are presumably, at their core, best understood within their Eastern context, e.g., the duende as Kali (“Black Time”) or as Lorca asserts: the duende is the Dionysian impulse (and therefore, the Bacchic impulse, as well as the Krishna impulse, and hence, the Vishnu (Hari)/Brahman impulse).  The duende is equally Shiva(Hara) dancing the nataraja dance, consequently also at play in the duende is the divine Hari-Hara.  In this “inherited” Asian perspective, muses (shaktas (devis)), angels (asuras (devas)), and the duende (Shri Krishna as Kali) are manifestations or avatars of various primordial (“elemental”) Hindu divinities.  As it pertains to polytheistic religions, the word “elemental” can be defined as the embodiment (or incorporation) by specific supernatural entities of powers belonging to nature (i.e., wind, rain, lightning, day, night, moon, sun, storms, sexuality, agriculture, past, present, and future, etc.).  In elemental religions, each natural phenomenon is personified or controlled by a supernatural entity, e.g. muses (“the past”); angels (“the future”), and the duende (“the present”). 

When considering the origin of the Andalusian duende, it is vital to take into account that Gypsy artistry is a passion that originated in India (among a group of low-caste performers whose DNA is traceable to India’s Rajputs of Rajasthan.  In the 5th Century CE, thousands of Rajput traveling musicians (Zotts or Luris (Lulis)) split into various tribes (Doms, Kolis, Jats, etc.) and started migrating or were officially displaced from India; heading first to Persia, and then wandering for centuries;   until, they predominantly settled in Egypt, where their developing cultural-identity was carefully honed, crafted, and perfected.   Subsequently, Gypsies spread throughout Eastern Europe becoming the Rom (Romi) of Romania, or, from Egypt, they crossed North Africa into Spain -- becoming the Gitanos or “Gypsies,” a name that erroneously defined them as “Egyptians;” although, this protracted 6th and 7th Century caravan of émigrés from Alexandria [(which gradually settled in Cadiz as well as throughout Andalusia (southern Spain))] were not actually ‘Coptic’ Egyptians; but, rather, Rajputi-Indians, whose divine hermaphroditic hybridization of Shri Krishna as Kali evolved into the red-cloaked boney, skinny, and walking-dead Saturn identified by Gypsies as the Andalusian duende. 

In Spain, over-centuries, the Gypsies’ extraordinary Gitano-culture evolved into something deep, inherent, and profound.  Spain provided a rich emotional and metaphysical soil; perfect for garnering the dark effusions of Saturnal duende.  Equally, we could map the migration of Hindu-Aryan shaktas into Greek Ionian muses or the Hindu-Aryan asuras into Hebraic angels, easily plotting their transcultural evolution, their intricate ancestral roots, and their circuitous passage from India into Europe, transmogrifying Hindu religio-iconology into Greco-Roman muses; Judeo-Christian angels, and the Andalusian Gypsy duende.


Raul Villarreal Campo Santo


Frida Kahlo Broken Column, 1944


Hugo Morales Silent Scream Series

Regarding angels, as described above, Lorca sees angelic art in terms of the future (not the past).  Creativity motivated by angels represents about 9% of all art.   Angelic artists are radiant, colorful, hyper-imaginative and airy artists like Fra Angelico, Fra Lippi, the young-Botticelli, Stephan Lochner, Jean Fouquet, da Messina, Cranach the Elder, Altdorfer,  Runge, Blake, Turner, Monet, Renoir, Chagall, Dufy, Henri Rousseau, Franz Marc, Matisse, Miró, Reverón, Calder, Helen Frankenthaler, Faith Ringgold, Miriam Schapiro, Chris Ofili, as well as others.    Distaining gravity, angelic art is visionary, floating, bright-hued and levitating, while prophetically aiming at the future.   For Lorca, angelic-art is an art of brilliant foresight, vivid presages, longing anticipation and celestial prophecy.  However, rarely some artists (i.e., Bosch, El Greco, Baldung Grien, Bruegel the Elder, Rembrandt, Rossetti, Duchamp, Kahlo and Koh) simultaneously manifests both angelic and duendesque tendencies in their unique imagery and style.  Hence, some unusual artists manifest two or more inspirational sources (or traits) in their art, e.g., contemporary artists like Jesus Rivera, Duda Penteado, Christie Devereaux, and Charles Hayes maintain both angelic and duende aspects; equally José Rodeiro and Raul Villarreal have manifested (from time-to-time) all three modes of inspiration in their art: muses, angels, and the duende, but this is extremely rare; since Lorca clearly states that the arrival of the duende ultimately drives out the other sources of inspiration, always (in time) “putting to flight angels and muses.” Concerning “when” and “where” duende appears and how it effects art requires an astute awareness or recognition that duende is the rarest thing in art: uncommon, infrequent, and inconstant; it unexpectedly comes (and without warning) goes.  For example, keep in mind that even the quintessential artist that Lorca twice cites in the essay as being the epitome of duende: Francisco Goya fell short of the duende throughout the first 47 years of his life.   Goya was primarily an angelic artist that realized or actualized his duende after 1793 in his late-work, especially his later The Black Paintings and throughout his various print-series. Goya’s duende precipitated from a Saturnal mid-life health crisis that left the master deaf, a nervous-wreck, and a shell of his former self.  Also, in the essay, Lorca’s “The Girl of the Combs” is without any duende at one moment (“Viva París!”) and then fully-possessed, overtaken, overwhelmed and convulsing in a fit (an orgasm) of duende - the next.  Hence, the duende is an unusual existent supernatural thing (which sparks the highest form of creativity) that comes and goes when least expected, often arriving unannounced from the core of ones being, as an absolute realization of Death – that materializes simultaneously by way of an authentic and tangible confrontation (or battle for survival) against Death (itself).


Vincent van Gogh Wheatfield with Crows, 1890. 50.2 cm x 103 cm (19.9 in x 40.6 in). Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Lorca’s conception of the duende is not based on the little goblin of northern Spain; rather it is the Andalusian duende (the “Spirit of Death Walking”), a walking red-robed skeleton with a scythe and hour-glass: reminiscent of the dead-god Saturn.   For Lorca, duende represents less than 1% of all artistic creativity; because it signifies a difficult task: the creation of art “fully” in the presence of Death . . . thus, risking everything.  Equally, it is the creation of art in the here-&-now (the present).   Thus, it confronts death in the absolute present!  The art of the duende includes Piranesi’s Prison Series; and as confirmed above, Goya’s Black Paintings, and his various print series; Gericault’s Raft of The Medusa; Van Gogh’s last painting(s) especially Wheatfield with Crows, The Rhone River at Night, The Church at Auvers and Starry Night; Edvard Munch’s Berlin works; Nolde’s various masks, as well as masterpieces by these significant Abstract Expressionists, i.e., Jackson Pollock, Clifford Still, Grace Hartigan, Peter Busa, Franz Kline’s black-&-white paintings; Robert Motherwell’s “Elegies,” or his “Duende Series,” and the bulk of George McNeil’s “scalded art.”  And, since the 1980s, Anselm Kiefer’s "Unknown Masterpiece," Susan Rothenberg’s shamanic images; Herb Rosenberg’s The Bombing of Baghdad; Hugo Morales’s Silent Scream Series; Duda Penteado’s initial Glocallica Series images; Virna Vargas’s prints (especially, those Vargas images that allude of Alberto Giacometti), Charles Hayes Moon-Series; and all the art of Sergio Villamizar. Along with these 20th and 21st Century artists, the list can include: Lisette Morel, Bruce Rice, Christie Devereaux, Emanoel Araujo, Olga M. Bautista, Adrienne Wheeler, as well as occasionally Gabriel Navar, Jesus Rivera, Chuck Plosky, Roberto Marquez, George Nelson Preston, Raúl Villarreal and José Rodeiro.


Edvard Munch Madonna, 1895-1902

Lithograph and woodcut, MoMA, New York

Duda Penteado Glocallica Series XVIII, 2010

A Growing Awareness of the Duende in Visual Art after 1934:


In 1934, Pablo Neruda was appointed Chile’s Consul General to Barcelona, requiring intermittent official trips to Madrid.  However, he was already somewhat familiar with both cities, because seven years prior (in the summer of 1927), he had traversed much of Spain, especially Madrid and Barcelona.   In Barcelona in 1927, while lunching at the London Bar on La Rambla, he met the Andalusian poet and playwright, Federico Garcia Lorca and the aspiring young Catalan painter and set-designer Salvador Dali, who were vociferously carousing during their lunch break from the Teatre Goya, where they were rehearsing and staging their June premier of Lorca’s play Mariana Pineda.  Fascinated by the pair’s cavorting, Neruda soon introduced himself and was encouraged by his two new, charming, brilliant and amusing acquaintances to see the play, which he enjoyed about a week after the premier.    During his sojourn in Barcelona throughout the month of June (1927), by design, intermittently Lorca and Dali ran into Neruda for tapas or apéritifs usually within white marbled tabletop tertulia bars in Teatre Goya’s vicinity. Adding to the fun, in June of 1927, Dali had procured a solo exhibit of Lorca’s whimsical “angelic” 2-D works at the Dalmau Gallery (Barcelona), inviting Neruda to attend the opening.

Roberto Matta The Vertigo of Eros, 1944, oil on canvas, 6' 5" x 8' 3" MoMA, New York

Seven-years later, Neruda began his Chilean consular duties, first in Barcelona (1934), and then in Madrid (1935).   After July 17, 1936, as the Spanish Civil War commenced, Neruda began making both “tourist” and “official” trips to Paris, scouting for a new place to live should conditions in Madrid deteriorate.   In 1936, while visiting Paris, looking for a new place to dwell, Neruda introduced his fellow countryman Chilean artist Roberto Matta Echaurren [(whom he had first met in Madrid in 1934. In fact, this preliminary Madrid encounter between the two greatest Chilean artists of the 20th Century is thoroughly described below)] to Salvador Dalí and André  Breton.  By 1938, as Generalissimo Francisco Franco’s siege of Madrid intensified, Neruda moved to Paris, sharing an apartment with Matta; during these years (1936-1939), both Matta and Neruda frequently associated with Breton, Dali, Picasso, Miro, Wifredo Lam (from 1938-1939), in addition to the Austrian Surrealist Wolfgang Paalen and the ubiquitous French Norman, Marcel Duchamp, as well as other leading figures, which were, in one way or another, connected with Surrealism.  


Peter Busa Pendulum, 1959

In early-1939, Duchamp advised Matta and Neruda to flee Paris for New York City.   Matta heeded Duchamp’s warning and escaped to Manhattan, where he soon befriended Adolph Gottlieb, Robert Motherwell, Arshile Gorky, Franz Kline and Peter Busa, as well as other leading figures of the New York School.  Inspired by Matta’s account of Lorca’s duende-theory; Motherwell promptly began applying Lorca’s duende-tenets to his emerging “non-objective” visual art.  The history of that insightful decision will be articulated below.  In the meantime, unlike Matta, Neruda was unable to heed Duchamp’s advise, because finally in 1939, he had obtained the much-coveted Chilean consular-posting to Paris, unfortunately commencing at the outbreak of World War II; a conflict that soon made his (long-awaited) Paris-posting hazardous, difficult, and ultimately undesirable (especially on June 14, 1940, when the German army marched into Paris). 


Franz Kline Mars Black & White, 1959 Sidney Janis Gallery, New York


David Alfaro Siqueiros Echo of a Scream, 1937, Enamel on wood, 48" x 36" MoMA, New York

Fortuitously, by early-1940, Neruda was named Chilean Counsel General to Mexico, where he reconnected with Breton, who was there as well.  In Mexico, Neruda and Breton clashed over the future of global communism, since Breton favored Leon Trotsky; while Neruda supported Joseph Stalin as supreme leader of the International Communist Party.  As a result, during his Mexican stint as Chilean Consul-General, Neruda was tangentially entangled in David Alfaro Siqueiros’s failed attempt (in May 1940) to assassinate Trotsky in Coyoacan, near Mexico City.   By the way, it is important to note that thanks to Neruda’s encouragement and careful explication of Lorca’s theory, most of Siqueiros’s art exudes both a rabid and a raved duende, whereas Mexico’s two leading modernist Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo completely lack duende.  Kahlo’s art is, by and large, angelic; while Rivera’s grand manner style exalts the muses.

Nevertheless, six-years prior to Neruda and Siquieros’s plot against Trotsky in Mexico (1940); and three years before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (1936), as well as five-years before World War II (1939), in 1934, Neruda (as stated above) was working in Spain (as a Chilean diplomat) while living an “artistic” existence in Madrid, cavorting and collaborating with Lorca to promote “new” innovative, energetic, exigent, and poignant poetry and art.  Thus, our history of the duende must delve into earlier “critical” events that transpired in 1934 in order to follow the actual historical trajectory of the duende’s mainstream manifestations in contemporary poetry and visual art. For example, according to Robert M. Gleaves’s incisive research; on December 6, 1934, Lorca invited Neruda to attend a literary gathering in Madrid, where the Chilean poet was unexpectedly introduced by Lorca via the below “duende-oriented” verbal-portrait, portraying the Chilean as:


Pablo Neruda [Chile]

“One of those authentic poets who have their senses attuned to a world which is
not ours and which few persons can perceive. A poet closer to death than to
philosophy, closer to sentiment with its attendant pain than to intellect, closer to
blood than to ink.  A poet filled with mysterious voices, which fortunately he
himself is unable to decipher. . . . . Pablo Neruda’s poetry rises up with a tone of
passion, tenderness, and sincerity never before equaled in America.” (7.b.)

In his 1974 Memoirs (entitled “I Confess I Have Lived”) and in his earlier 1947 poem, “I’m Explaining a Few Things,” Neruda liberally returned Lorca’s above-stated compliments, divulging throughout the poem (via the images of specific flowers) his fond-affection for Lorca. Neruda’s admiration for Lorca is equally evident in a powerful “duende-oriented” passage from his Memoirs, wherein Neruda reveals how much Lorca meant to him, exclaiming:

“What a poet! [of] grace and genius; when did a winged heart and a crystalline waterfall, ever come together in anyone else as they did in him. Federico Garcia Lorca was the extravagant “duende,” his was a magnetic joyfulness that generated a zest for life in his heart and radiated it like a planet.”  (Memoirs 122)

Beyond Lorca’s and Neruda’s reacquaintance in Madrid in 1934, rekindling their private and candid mutual “literary” admiration society; nevertheless, the year 1934 represents a crucial and decisive year within the history of “duende-inspired” visual art, due to Lorca’s and Neruda’s imparting of the basic precepts of duende-theory to [(the young Chilean visual artists)] Roberto Matta Echaurren in Madrid (Spain) in 1934.  This vital transmission of duende-theory occurred during several affable encounters between Lorca, Neruda, and the young Chilean artist, who was in Spain, visiting his aunt, while on holiday from his exacting architectural-rendering job with Le Corbusier in Paris (France).   According to Alain Sayaq’s account (Sayaq at al., Matta, Paris, 1985), these on-going Lorca/Neruda aesthetic conversations with Matta, [(the future Chilean Surrestist painter, whose art (from his early-‘Psychological Morphologies’ series to his later ‘Inscapes’) is generally considered “angelic” in nature)].  As reported by Sayaq, both Lorca and Neruda gave Matta letters-of-introduction addressed to Salvador Dali, who was in New York City, due his severe (official and “political”) conflicts with André Breton, and as a result, the Spaniard was in hot water with the entire Parisian Surrealist Movement.   For instance, in February 25, 1934, in the Hotel Opera (Paris), Breton had placed Dali on trial for painting Vladimir Ilyich Lenin as William Tell (in the painting The Enigma of William Tell, 1933), as well as addressing Dali’s acknowledged fascination for Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.  In a few years, Dalí added Francisco Franco, as someone that equally captivated his interest.  As a reward, for his flagrant rightwing sympathies, during the height of the dictatorship, Franco permitted Dali’s return to Spain.  On the other hand, Pablo Picasso (due to his hatred of Franco and Fascism, as well as his membership in the French Communist Party) refused to step-foot in Spain until democracy was restored. 


Federico García Lorca and Pablo Neruda in October 1933

Theodore Roszak The Furies of Folly Cove, C.1950, ink and wash on paper. 23" x 28"

Through Sayaq’s 1985 art historical research, we know that this above-described historic Madrilenian string-of-meetings [(between Matta, Lorca, and Neruda)] occurred in December (1934), while Matta was (as previously stated) visiting his aunt in Madrid, Spain.  On Matta’s behalf, both Lorca and Neruda sent letters-of-introduction to the Catalan painter Salvador Dalí who was at that time in New York (since November, 1934) with his new wife Gala, hiding from the ire of André Breton, who had more-or-less exiled Dalí, declaring him an interloper and a persona non grata in Paris; thereby, forbidding him from official organizational participation in the Surrealist Movement, although, Dali was still allowed to exhibit with the Surrealist until the advent of World War II, when Dali’s blatant pro-fascist leanings became untenable for the mostly Pro-Trotsky Marxist Surrealist-group, especially annoying to Breton was Dalí’s increasing infatuation with Generalismo Francisco Franco in Spain, which had begun in 1936.


Dalí and General Francisco Franco

 After marrying Gala in a civil ceremony in Paris in January 1934, they eventually spent their honeymoon in New York City during the fall and winter of 1934-35, after being partially-excommunicated from Surrealism by Breton in February (1934), specifically from administrative participation in Surrealism.   Breton’s censure of Dali occurred a few months before the Catalan’s arrival in New York City (NY).  After landing in the ‘Big Apple’ in early fall (1934), he promptly began working for several 5th Avenue department stores as a large window-display decorator.   All the while, Dali continued to paint his bizarre and fantastic imagery, which is generally deemed (for the most part) muse(s)-oriented with occasional angelic touches or tendencies.   In fact, Dalí claimed direct kinship (and boasted deep aesthetic-affinity) with such orthodox muse-oriented “Neo-Apelles” classicists as Raphael, Vermeer, Velazquez, Gerrit Dou and Meissonier.  After Matta’s return to Paris in 1936 from England where the Chilean had been working with architect Walter Gropius, he contacted Dalí, who was unable to introduce Matta to any of the Surrealists, due to Breton’s rift with the Spaniard.  Therefore, Neruda (while visiting Paris in 1936) arranged Matta’s meeting with the founder and leader of Surrealism, André Breton (who was fundamentally a “muse(s)-inspired” poet) who lacked (just like Dalí) any form of genuine duende.  In 1937, while still in Paris, fascinated by Matta's wild convoluted drawings, Breton invited the Chilean to join the Surrealists.  Thanks to Breton’s praise, Matta abruptly abandoned architecture and began painting.


 Artists in Exile show at the Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, March 1942. Left to right, first row: Matta, Ossip Zadkine, Yves Tanguy, Max Ernst, Marc Chagall, Fernand Léger; second row: André Breton, Piet Mondrian, André Masson, Amedée Ozenfant, Jacques Lipchitz, Pavel Tchelitchev, Kurt Seligman, Eugene Berman. Photograph by George Platt Lynes.

During this time, as he had done previously starting in 1923 with Dalí at The University of Madrid’s La Residencia, Lorca (via telegraph, mail, and telephone) mentored the angelic Matta as a protégé.  Lorca took a keen interest in Matta’s artistic-career from 1934 until the poet’s assassination on August 18, 1936, (dying at 38-years of age).  In these correspondences, they often spoke about the duende’s extraordinary and unexpected ability to spark artistic creativity in the “here” and “now.”   Yet, the angelic Matta, despite his best efforts, usually fell short of duende’s full creative potential, since the Chilean’s over-active imagination favored visual art that was visionary, prophetic, and capable of imaginatively exploring other galaxies, as is evident in his Surrealist ‘Psychological Morphologies’ series and in his later ‘Inscapes.’   Nevertheless, as stated above, in 1937, astounded by Matta's virtuoso flair for feral draughtsmanship, Breton asked him to join the Surrealist Movement and create illustrations for the magazine, Minotaur; which Matta did, along with launching his painting career.  However, like Breton, Matta never fully grasped the full potential of duende in his art.  Nevertheless, Matta thoroughly understood the theory of duende, and eventually instructed other artists on duende’s fine points.   Perhaps, Matta naïvely assumed that his wild interplanetary imagery sufficed, and as a result, he mistakenly thought that his art had a rudimentary-form of duende.  Or, perhaps, he was confused, or else misinformed or disorientated, after seeing Lorca’s fanciful forays into visual art, which were odd Surreal drawings and watercolors (‘curiosities’) that were often whimsical, “angelic,” and silly.  However, in Lorca’s tragedies and poems, these trite child-like qualities (inhabiting most of his 2-D art) are not remotely evident in his greatest poems and tragedies, which are (as Neruda described above), passionate erupting volcanoes of dark duende-churned lava.  Like Lorca and Neruda, in his doctrine of “Creative Evolution,” Henri Bergson viewed artistic creativity as equivalent to psycho-emotive volcanic-eruptions.  Nonetheless, Lorca’s mentor-relationship of Matta is the means by which duende attains a beachhead within both 20th and 21st Century visual art.


Emanoel Araújo Aranha, 1981. Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, Brasil.

For instance, five-years after Lorca’s assassination in Alfacar, Granada, in 1936 (at the start of the Spanish Civil War), ‘duende-theory’ was first introduced in New York.  This crucial moment in the history of duende-art occurred in 1941 when Matta met Robert Motherwell (an American pioneer of Abstract Expressionism). Motherwell (who was one of the younger members of the Abstract Expressionists Group) is recognized for painting several initial revolutionary Abstract Expressionist images, which roused other Manhattan-based abstract-painters to follow suit.  Like many others in the group that eventually comprised the New York School of Abstract Expressionism, he hailed from the far west: Washington and California.   As their friendship evolved in New York City and in Mexico, Matta disclosed Lorca’s idea(s) to him, prompting Motherwell’s first-hand investigation of the late-poet’s “The ‘Duende’ Essay.” Hence, Motherwell was the first US artist to fully grasp the artistic ramifications of Lorca’s duende theory, understanding, in particular, its enormous inspirational potential for igniting uncompromising-forms (or “highest-forms”) of artistic creativity in the visual arts, poetry, music, and artistic performances.  In fact, earlier, during his study at Columbia University with Meyer Shapiro in 1940-1941, Motherwell was well aware that Garcia-Lorca had traversed those same hallowed halls, during the poet’s brief Columbia University matriculation (1929-1930).

In her book, Abstract Expressionists, Rachel Barnes states that as their friendship grew, Matta traveled with Motherwell to Mexico in spring 1941, accompanying them were Barbara Reis (the daughter of the alleged disreputable art-accountant Bernard Reis) and Matta's wife Anne Alpert Clark.  During that journey, on a boat-ride, Motherwell met his wife the Mexican actress Maria Emilia Ferreira y Moyeros (the first of his four wives).  Through Barnes’s account, we learn that the entire above-named coterie (of artists, spouses, & friends) spent the summer in Taxco, Mexico.  

At that time, Taxco and other Mexican cities were overflowing with refugee Spanish Loyalists émigrés from the recent Spanish Civil War, many of whom were acquainted with Lorca’s poetry and theatrical works.  Lorca's theory was often discussed in dingy smoke-filled cantinas where tequila flowed until dawn while performers wailed woeful rancheras.  Also, during this trip to Mexico, Matta reconnected with the Austrian Surrealist Wolfgang Paalen, who he had known in Paris, who was living in exile in Mexico.  Matta introduced him to Motherwell; who promptly collaborated with Paalen on various projects (including the journal DYN, which stands for dynaton, a Greek term, indicating, "That which is possible.”   Dynaton is almost identical to Alfred Jarry’s 1901 concept of Pataphysics, which acknowledges the relativity and awareness of “wherever a person stands in the present;” a theory very much like the theory of the duende.  Thus, Physics references the past, Metaphysics indicates the future, and Pataphysics is about the here and now (present), especially in terms of "that which is possible.”   Also, Paalen and Motherwell initially collaborated on the book Form and Sense, which was published in New York by Motherwell after the Austrian’s suicide in 1959 in Taxco.  Like Matta, Paalen’s art is primarily “angelic.” His bizarre suicide resulted from bitter feelings of alienation, rejection, and isolation away from André Breton’s Surrealist Movement.  Paalen had become disillusioned by Breton’s innate totalitarianism; yet, found that he nevertheless missed Breton’s ardor and enthusiasm for Surrealism. He wanted to reconcile with Breton.   But, he knew that Breton was callous, ruthless, and unforgiving.  Notice that Dalí was similarly grappling with many of the same realizations concerning Breton and Surrealism.

Jackson Pollock number-8.jpg

Jackson Pollock Number 8, 1949


Mark Rothko Number 12, 1960


Gorky’s “The Black Monk (‘Last Painting’)” (c. 1948), courtesy of PMA. © 2009 Estate of Arshile Gorky/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

As World War II ended, duende captivated New York City via Motherwell’s and Matta’s continued conversations about Lorca’s theory at the American Abstract Artists Association (AAAA) on Riverside Drive (NYC), or at NYU’s Art Club in Greenwich Village, and at the Arts Student League; attending were Arshile Gorky, Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Clifford Still, Grace Hartigan, Peter Busa and George McNeil and other New York School artists, who  were exposed to the basic tenets of Lorca’s duende theory, which almost immediately began infusing, penetrating, and inspiring their art from 1945 onward.  Thanks to Matta’s and Motherwell’s proselytizing, Lorca’s duende theory by and large permeated the first-generation of Abstract Expressionism.   After World War II, this infiltration of duende into the New York School is evident in several of Motherwell’s titles; or in prose sketches by Clyfford Still, describing his work, stating,  “These [works] are not paintings in the usual sense . . . [instead] they are life and death merging in fearful union . . . ." (David Anfam, et al. Clyfford Still (2001)).

Wifredo Lam & George McNeil:

The Cuban, Lam came to Madrid, Spain, in 1923 to study art, arriving a year after Lorca and Dali.  The Spaniards were in their baccalaureate second-year; Lorca on leave from law school within El Colegio del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús of the University of Granada (Granada) and Dali within the Academy of San Fernando (Madrid).  While Lam rented a small modest apartment in Madrid’s rundown Arco de Cuchilleros neighborhood, Lorca and Dali lived in the fêted Residencia de Estudiantes, where they befriended Luis Bunuel, the future world-renowned film director.   Built in 1910, La Residencia had lodged (and continued to accommodate) many luminaries of the Generation of 1898 (i.e., Juan Ramón Jiménez, José Ortega y Gasset, Miguel de Unamuno, Ramon de Valle-Inclán and Eugenio d´Ors).  From 1922-1926 when Lorca, Dali, and Bunuel resided there, it housed many members of “The Generation of 1927,” i.e., Pedro Salinas, Blas Cabrera, Jorge Guillen, Vicente Aleixandre, Gerardo Diego, Rafael Alberti, Luis Cernuda, Antonio Machado and Damaso Alonso.   [(The author of “this” text, Dr. José Rodeiro met the “muses-inspired” Classicist Alonso via Rodeiro’s sister Joyce Martinez; she had studied with Alonso in the 1970s at the University of Madrid.  Alonso furnished (your author) many helpful insights into the Generation of 1927 and their raucous roaring-20s student days at La Residencia de Estudiantes)].   Alonso revealed that after 1929, when Dali and Bunuel released their collaborative Surrealist film An Andalusian Dog (1929), Lorca became immensely upset with the film, and became more and more estranged from Dali and Bunuel (as explained above in the section titled: The History of Duende).

From 1923 to 1926, coincidentally, both Dali and Lam learned academic painting from Fernando Alvarez de Sotomayor, the Director of the Museo del Prado, who gave private lessons in his studio to Lam, while (at the same time) instructing Dali at the Academy.   Due to his exotic handsome Caribbean features, Lam was noticed by Dali, Lorca, and Bunuel.  Hence, Lam was informally acquainted with all three; but, this was long before Dali’s formulation of The Paranoiac-Critical Method or Lorca’s theoretical realization of the role that duende played in the highest forms of creativity, or Bunuel’s first ventures into filmmaking.    Unlike Dali, who ridiculed his teachers at the Academy, Lam freely absorbed de Sotomayor’s academic lessons, but (even so) he was drawn to modern abstract imagery displayed in contemporary art journals and newspapers, which presented black-&-white printed-photographs of Paris avant-garde art works, especially Picasso’s works.   During this time, Lam dated Eva Piriz, marrying her in 1929.  However, by 1931, due to severe tuberculosis, both his wife and new-born baby succumbed.  Haunted by the specter of their deaths, Lam and his art were thrown into paroxysms of despair  —ameliorated only through his feverish trance-like undertaking of duende-laden paintings.  But, it is important to take into account that during this tragic time, the hitherto obscure duende-concept had not yet been fully realized by Lorca; nor had it been explained to Lam by anyone.   Nevertheless, a manifestation of the duende concept was evident in his work.   Additional anguish pierced his life, as Spain in 1936 fell into Civil War.  The seven years from 1931-1938 were bleak years for Lam.  Consequently, in order to escape the ongoing siege of Madrid by Franco’s rebels, Lam fled to Paris in 1938. 

Before leaving Spain, Lam was given a “letter-of-introduction” to Pablo Picasso, by Manuel (“Manolo”) Hugué an old friend of the Spaniard.  Despite his timidity about meeting his hero, Lam used Hugué’s generous introduction to get in touch with his idol.  Luckily, Picasso immediately adored Lam; and soon the pair became inseparable.   Among the things propelling Lam into Picasso’s arms was the Cuban’s desperate need for a safe-sanctuary, as well as a need to quickly establish himself successfully in Paris; moreover Madrid had provoked feelings of apprehension, vulnerability, insecurity and paranoia.  Mostly, he fretted that Spain’s ills might cross the Pyrenees into France.   For example, when at last (in March 1939) Madrid surrendered to the fascists, Franco permitted over-100,000 executions of captured Loyalists (Republicans) Majos/Majas that had defended Madrid, among them many of Lam’s Spanish friends.    Meanwhile, safe in Paris, the young Cuban became Picasso’s protégée.  The Spaniard introduced him to both Parisian avant garde artists and poets (i.e., Breton and most of the Surrealists), as well as leading expatriates from Latin America residing in “the City of Lights” in the late-1930s (i.e., Mario Carreño, Alejo Carpentier, and Pablo Neruda), as well as other major art world personalities.  Within a year, he was invited by Breton into Surrealism’s inner-circle.   But, on September 1, 1939 an event occurred, which blighted Lam’s meteoric rise in the Parisian art world as Picasso’s sidekick; Franco’s Spanish Civil War “helper” NAZI Germany invaded Poland; casting France and England into war against Hitler, commencing Europe’s  entry into World War II.


P. Picasso, W. Lam, Vallauris, 1954

Drawn to Lam’s charismatic Caribbean features as well as his direct connections to Madrid’s recent Quixotic, heroic, yet failed, defense; Picasso took the young Cuban under his wing, introducing him to Michel Leiris, Pierre Loeb, Joan Miro, Georges Braques, Fernand Leger, Henri Matisse, Dora Maar, Nusch and Paul Eluard, Benjamin Péret, Remedios Varo, Tristan Tzara, Oscar Domínguez, Victor Brauner, Kurt Seligmann, Wolfgang Paalen and Roberto Matta Echaurren, along with authors and artists named previously in the preceding paragraph.  Lam became a fixture at Picasso’s Parisian home; until the Spaniard left for Southern France.   Occasionally, Lam dropped-by Matta’s and Neruda’s co-rented flat in Paris; during these visits, both regaled him with explications of Lorca’s duende theory; additionally they related episodes of camaraderie with the Granadaean poet (e.g., Neruda had spent time with Lorca in Barcelona, Buenos Aires, and Madrid; Matta knew the poet briefly in Madrid).  Likewise, the Cuban reminisced about his cursory encounters with Lorca and Dalí in Madrid between 1923 and 1926.  Lam and the two Chileans brooded over the fact that such an entertaining, vivacious, and brilliant poet (Federico Garcia Lorca) had been brutally assassinated in late-summer of 1936.  As the conversation ebbed; Neruda divulged news that the famous British science fiction writer H. G. Wells, President of the PEN Club of London had tried to investigate Lorca’s disappearance, requesting from fascist officials detailed confirmation of Lorca’s execution.  By 1938, rumors about Lorca’s fate abounded.  For decades, Spain’s triumphant fascists circumspectly allayed, or obfuscated, or minimized their blunders, massacres, and crimes.


Julio Romero de Torres, Cante hondo, 1929 Museo Julio Romero de Torres, Córdoba, Spain

Impressed by Matta’s and Neruda’s explication of Lorca’s duende theory, in France, Lam linked the idea of duende to his deep-rooted fascination and knowledge of African culture and art; especially African and Afro-Caribbean theological concepts, e.g., “the spirit of the dead watching.”   Hence, Lam’s growing awareness of the duende was ironically nurtured by his attraction to African culture.  This self-imposed confusion may have weakened Lam’s full commitment to an absolute or indispensable Gypsy-realization of duende.   To boot, Picasso, Michel Leiris (an art historian and an assistant-curator within the African wing of the Musée de l'Homme: Paris’s main ethnological museum), plus, the gallerista Pierre Loeb, Alejo Carpentier (the Cuban novelist who wrote Ecue-yamba-o! (1933) as well as being an eminent Afro-Caribbean music ethnologist /musicologist) and Breton persuaded Lam in 1938-1940 (in Paris and Marseilles) to investigate African art and culture, as well as to aesthetically exploit or consider Afro-Cuban “syncretistic-religion” Santería as a vital source for his artistic inspiration.   The sway of Picasso and his entourage led Lam toward the aesthetic of Africa and Oceania.  Thus, throughout Lam’s Surrealist-phase rarely does duende manifest; although, the quality is occasionally noticeable in his best Negritude Surreal works.  But, duende is never apparent in any of Picasso’s visual art or Breton’s poems.  

In 1938, Lam accompanied Breton to Mexico, sojourning with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. During their visit, they met Leon Trotsky.  Breton was in Mexico organizing a Latin American flavored Surrealist show within the Julian Levy Gallery, New York (1938).  Without Breton, Lam left Mexico and returned to Paris.  In 1939, as fascism cast a pall on Europe, Lam had his first solo show at the Galerie Pierre Loeb in Paris, as well as exhibiting with Picasso at New York’s Perls Galleries in an exhibit curated and organized by Picasso.  As the German army marched into Paris, Lam fled to Marseilles, where he reconnected with Breton and a group of fellow Surrealists, who had established their headquarters at the Villa of Air-Bel (Marseilles), where Breton organized Surrealist games and activities as the anxious artists and poets waited to book passage to America.  In Marseilles, Peggy Guggenheim helped Lam financially by purchasing two of his gouaches.   Soon, Breton and his coterie arranged passage on the ship “Capitaine Paul-Merle” en route  to the Caribbean; onboard were Breton, Lam (and his future wife Helena Holzer), Benjamin Peret, Remedios Varos, Claude Lévi-Strauss (the pioneer of Structural Anthropology, who wrote a book about this voyage: “The Sad Tropics”), Victor Serge, Anna Seghers, Oscar M. Domínguez (a dark brooding Surrealist painter from the Canary Islands crawling with duende), as well as Breton’s lover Jacqueline Lamba and their daughter Aube, etc., etcetera.  In fact, although, set in 1931 instead of 1940, Katherine Anne Porter’s novel, Ship of Fools, was circuitously based on “this” legendary Surrealist refugee sea-voyage.  


Oscar Domínguez Untitled, 1936 Gouache transfer on paper MoMA, New York.


Despite threats from allied submarines and tropical storms, the ship reached the Island of Martinique, where Lam was immediately arrested because his official travel papers were in disarray.  Every other day, Breton visited Lam in jail.  It was during this period of Lam’s brief incarceration that Breton and he befriended Aimé Césaire the leader of Negritude (“Negrisme” or “Negrismo”) art movement and editor of Tropiques magazine, which fostered Latin America’s emerging Tropicalia art, poetry, and music movement, especially in Brazil.    Breton and Lam forged strong aesthetic bonds with Césaire, whose brilliant artistic ideas (“aesthetic goals”) would robustly infuse and inform their art throughout the rest of their creative-lives.   In fact, Lam’s innovative new Negritude Surrealist works enhanced possibilities for Lorquean duende to emerge (from time-to-time), as well as furnishing the Cuban ample opportunities to create work free of obvious Picassoesque allusions.  

As soon as, possible, Lam and Breton and their entire coterie fled Martinique to the Dominican Republic and Haiti, where they met-up with Andre Masson, Pierre Mabille, and Eugenio Granell, and other Paris avant garde Surrealist artist-émigrés, as well as meeting all the leading artists of the island.  During this time, Lam completed his duende-filled illustrations of Breton’s poem "Fata Morgana."   Despite trying, Lam was unable to obtain visas for Mexico and the US; consequently, he had to return to Cuba, when Breton, Peret, Varos  and others set-off for Mexico, where they reconnected with Neruda, Paalen, and other former-Parisian artists and poets, who had relocated to Mesoamerica.   Lam returned to Cuba in 1940-1941, immediately noticing that Afro-Cubans were often mistreated by the island’s white “aristocracy,” which served to further imbed his Surrealist aesthetic to that of Aimé Césaire’s Negritude as well as stylistic influences from emerging international Tropicalia.   The best example of this stylistic fusion is Lam’s The Jungle, 1943, which even has the duende


Wilfredo Lam The Jungle, 1943, Gouache on paper mounted on canvas, 94 1/4 x 90 1/2", MoMA, New York.

In 1940, Motherwell arrived in New York to study at Columbia University’s Department of Art History and Archeology.   His favorite teacher, Professor Meyer Schapiro connected Motherwell with émigré artists in exile in New York City, such as Leger, Miro, Chagall, Hans Hofmann, Breton (who had just arrived from Mexico), Tanguy and Roberto Matta,    Matta and Motherwell became fast friends; in 1941, they travelled together to Mexico for six months [(an account of their journey is provided above in the section entitled: A Growing Awareness of the Duende in Visual Art after 1934)].

Departing Mexico, Breton arrived in New York in 1940; where he convinced Pierre Matisse to take Lam (as well as other Surrealists painters) into the Frenchman’s New York City gallery’s stable of artists.  After World War II ended, Lam in 1946 arrived in New York City, where his old-friend Matta introduced Lam to Arshile Gorky and Robert Motherwell, who in-turn introduced the Cuban to George McNeil (who became a dear friend throughout his life).   In New York, Matta and Motherwell expounded about Lorca’s duende concept, further inspiring both Lam and McNeil, encouraging them to be “open” to the possibility of duende.   For reasons explained earlier, Lam often fell short of the duende; but McNeil naturally gravitated toward duende.  



George McNeil Des Moines Landscape, June 12, 1969.

The Post-War Diffusion of Duende Theory in the Visual Arts: 


Joseph Mallord William Turner Snow Storm, C:1842 TATE, London.

Vincent van Gogh The Church in Auvers, 1890, oil on canvas, H. 94; W. 74 cm.

Musée d'Orsay, Paris.


One of Hans Hofmann’s top students was George McNeil, a daring painter and art educator, who similar to Motherwell studied at Columbia University.  In fact, McNeil, Franz Kline, Grace Hartigan, Willem and Elaine de Kooning and Motherwell were often together at AAAA, NYU’s Art Club, and occasionally on the doorsteps of The League, where Motherwell often pushed the conversation toward duende theory. 

In the late-1940s and 1950s, during numerous stays in Cuba, George McNeil often discussed duende with his friend the Cuban Surrealist Wifredo Lam.  Consistent with the obvious duende that pervades Van Gogh’s late “colorful” works, both McNeil and Lam were artists that often used a bright “high-key” palette to reach duende’s emotive intensity and depth.  However, the use of bright hue to attain duende requires a rare (nearly impossible) contradictory capability; an ability to utilize high-key chromatic-colors as though bright and intense hues were “somehow” in some way identical to shades of black.  We find this duende phenomenon in countless late-works by Van Gogh (e.g., The Café Terrace at Arles, Starry Night,  The Church at Auvers, and of course The Wheatfield with Crows, etc. etcetera). This same ironic gift is evident throughout the artworks of George McNeil and Wifredo Lam.  McNeil and Lam’s breathtaking artistic achievements and colorful marvels are a direct result of Matta’s and Motherwell’s zealous advocacy of the duende.  Nevertheless, Motherwell (unlike McNeil and Lam) always relied on simply “black-as-black” within his black-&-white ventures into duende that are instantly recognizable, i.e., in At Five in the Afternoon; and throughout the Elegies to the Spanish Republic series.  Among the Abstract Expressionist, Motherwell was considered the group’s foremost “intellectual,” authoring scores of critical articles on contemporary art, as well as publishing two celebrated books: Dada Painters & Poets (1951) and Max Ernst: Beyond Painting (1948).  He was well versed in all the different 20th Century aesthetic theories; but, primarily applied duende theory when forging his best known pieces.



Vincent Van Gogh The Starry Night, 1889, 29 x 36 1/4" MoMA, New York.

As most second-generation (“2nd-Wave”) Abstract Expressionists, McNeil held Motherwell in high esteem and listened intently to his theoretical discourses on art.  Like both Lorca and Motherwell, McNeil had studied at Columbia and formulated his own unique theory of art, which in many ways parallels Lorca’s duende theory.  McNeil believed that art should not strive for pure-beauty; he always asserted that, “In a comparison between Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh to determine whose art is greater, or more important, the Dutchman is by far the better painter, because his art has some shit or grit in it!”   According to McNeil, art works that have things out of kilter, askew, or ugly are always preferable, enduring, memorable, and of greater value.  He argued, “Between the pure beauty of Piet Mondrian’s De Stijl and the push/pull of Hans Hofmann, the German is the greater artist!”  The same is true in sculpture, according to McNeil, “Between the elegance of Brancusi’s Bird in Flight, or any existential figure sculpted by Alberto Giacometti, the Italo-Swiss’s work is superior, because his art has shit or grit in it!”  “A great work of art must have shit or grit in it!”  Whenever he spoke about art, these were the brash, duendesque, and heroic insights that George McNeil persistently imparted, which he always delivered in his unique unassuming, humble, shy, gentle and apologetic manner, stating as a preamble in a soft mild-mannered voice, “Please, don’t listen to me, because what do I know about art; I am an old man . . . please, don’t take me seriously, but, between Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh, the Dutchman is the better painter, because his art has some shit or grit in it!”   This essay (which you are reading) acknowledges that the enigmatic artistic quality that McNeil surmised to be either  “shit” or “grit” is 100% indistinguishable from the duende.

The distinction between an artist that has “grit,” “shit,” or ugliness and one that has mere “beauty” is similar to the artistic differentiation between what constitutes an artist of genius and what constitutes an artist of talent; an aesthetic duality first argued and developed by German art historian Max J. Friedländer in the 1930s, through which he explicitly identified certain artists as “fighters” while others he deemed “victors,” regarding their disparate approach to art and art-making.   For Friedlander, “fighters” are artist with overwhelming genius but little talent (i.e., Bosch, El Greco, Caravaggio, Artemisia Gentileschi, Goya, Van Gogh, Bocklin or Ryder), while “victors” have much more talent than genius (i.e., Memling, Carracci, Reni, Mengs, Bouguereau, Gérôme, Wyeth or Norman Rockwell).  Everything in art comes easily to the “victors,” while “fighters” fight to create, struggling with everything and everyone, including themselves, existence, nature, the universe or the duende.  Occasionally, a few great artists have equal portions of genius and talent, such as Michelangelo or Raphael.  Yet, even among those two giants; it is clear that the Florentine is the fighter, while the Umbrian is the victor.

Today, many artists follow Motherwell’s or McNeil’s heroic paths and examples, wisely pursuing the radical and profound aesthetic views described throughout Lorca’s essay on the duende, in order to enhance or inform their work with this dark enigmatic and extraordinary inspiration.  Throughout the first decade of the 21st Century, Sergio Villamizar (a New York City artist of Colombian ancestry) is one of the best contemporary advocates of duende; his art harbors a tough-minded charcoal black virulent duende that potently surges through his exceptional, formidable, fierce and dangerous imagery. Both in his woodcut prints and his large magnetic photo-collages, Villamizar’s ominous imagery is hyper-intense, drastically invigorating, and eye catching.   Exactly as Lorca described, for Villamizar, duende is a ‘natural,’ integral, and organic condition that haunts his art.  From September 25 until November 5, 2010, he was part of a groundbreaking exhibition on DUENDE at Passaic County Community College’s Broadway & LRC Galleries, exhibiting in a two-man show (with José Rodeiro) curated by Jane Haw (PCCC’s Gallery Director)(8).


DUENDE at Passaic County Community College’s Broadway & LRC Galleries, two-man show: José Rodeiro & Sergio Villamizar

Unlike Villamizar, Rodeiro  (whose atypical attempts at duende are, for the most part, rare or occasional; although he is an artist who has used bright hue to attain duende, e.g., his Sunflowers image painted only in varying bright yellow hues; is nevertheless infused with duende, which harkens back to the colorful-duende  phenomenon, which was realized by Van Gogh, Wifredo Lam, and George McNeil.  In this light, it is important to know that Rodeiro was both a student and an employee of Dr. George McNeil (Director of Graduate Art History, Pratt Institute, NYC), for whom Rodeiro taught courses in Medieval Art, Renaissance Art, and Baroque & Rococo art history in mid-1970s.  Nevertheless, despite Rodeiro’s occasional grappling with duende; historically, his art is mostly muse-oriented or even at times angelic.  Hence, what made this fall 2010 PCCC Broadway & LRC Galleries show remarkable was the visual dichotomy between Villamizar’s “true,” natural, and inherent duende and Rodeiro’s odd, awkward, and reticent duende.  Also, important is the fact that when Rodeiro received his (1986-87) individual Visual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts; one of the jurors on the NEA selection committee was Robert Motherwell.  Plus, in 1972, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Motherwell was exhibiting in a

When I Call on You but Cannot Hear You P

Lisette Morel

When I Call On You But Cannot Hear You Part I


Jose Rodeiro Sunflowers

solo-show, displaying only his most recent late-works, which were thin lined thin-painted Matisse-like rectangles consumed by Post-Painterly Painting, Large Color-field Painting, and an overt desire for sheer Beauty.  In these hyper-linear, mild, colorful, pleasant, lovely, sloppy late-works, Motherwell had sadly strayed far far away from the duende, which had dominated his finest works throughout his distinguished career.  Sitting pensive on a large backless upholstered sofa-bench in the first room of the exhibit was George McNeil, disheartened — shaking his downcast head and whispering to himself, catching sight of one of his Pratt  MFA candidates (José Rodeiro), he said, “Sometimes an artist that you admire your whole life can lose his way and disappoint you.”  Then McNeil abruptly turned away from the enormous bright-hued Matisseian canvases (quietly muttering, “Where is the shit?” “Where is the grit?” “Where is the shit?” “Where is the grit?”) as he walked dejectedly toward the grand staircase cascading down to 5th Avenue heading back to his dark-red brick combined studio-home by the Brooklyn Navy Yard to burn-paint his duende-filled expressionistic images with an acetylene blowtorch.


Malcolm Morley Albatross, 1985, Astrup Feamley Collection, Oslo

In the early-1990s Villamizar learned about the duende via conversations with Rodeiro in Jersey City, NJ.  Meanwhile, Rodeiro first heard about the duende phenomenon, in the late 1960s, while strolling beneath reams of dark dangling Spanish-moss in Plant Park (Tampa, Florida), walking astride of Dr. Nicomedes Suárez-Araúz (the acclaimed Bolivian poet and aesthetic theorist), Alan Britt (currently, one of America’s most published poets), and Charles Hayes (the brilliant Hudson Valley poet/photographer), Rodeiro learned about duende from American poet Duane Locke.   Also, in the 1980s in Ybor City (Tampa, Florida) both Suárez-Araúz  and Rodeiro had the good fortune  to know Malcolm Morley (the true father of both American “Superrrealism” and American Young-Turk “Neo-Expressionism”).  Morley knew about Ben Belitt’s translation of Lorca’s duende theory through his first-wife Fran Bull, who was familiar with Ben Belitt at Bennington, Vermont, during her student years.   In 1955, Belitt translated Lorca’s Duende essay as part of his editing of Garcia Lorca’s Poet in New York, Grove Press (NYC, NY), which was read (and “carefully studied”) by all of the above artists and poets.  Important to Rodeiro is the fact that Morley in his expressionistic imagery often revealed a powerful duende evoked by brilliant virtuoso applications of bright pigment like Van Gogh, Chaïm Soutine, McNeil, and Lam.   In the late-1960s and early-1970s, Morley attained fame doing “Muse” infested Superrealist (Photo-Realist) works, which Dalí cleverly dubbed “Sharp Sybaritic Realism.”  Dali predicted that Morley would both outgrow and eventually destroy Superrealism.  Morley did destroy it; by inventing Neo-Expressionism.

Ten years prior to meeting Morley; Rodeiro and Suárez were both pursuing doctoral degrees at Ohio University, when a Spanish dance troupe performed at OU.   One of the dancers in the company was named Laura Garcia-Lorca.  So after the performance, Rodeiro and Suarez stayed behind and asked the stage manager to speak with her.  She came to the foot of the stage, and graciously and generously revealed that her father was Federico’s brother: Francisco.  Today, she runs The Federico García Lorca Foundation.  A few months after meeting the gifted niece of Garcia-Lorca, Suarez and Rodeiro heard a rumor that Pablo Neruda had been assassinated in Chile.  Immediately, both thought of the political assassination of Lorca under similar circumstances thirty-seven years earlier.  Soon, little-by-little the nefarious facts surrounding Neruda’s death emerged.   Such as, according to Manuel Araya (Pablo Neruda’s personal assistant), while the poet was at Santa Maria Clinic in the outskirts of Santiago, Chile (on September 23, 1973), seeking medical papers in order to justify his departure to Mexico City for treatment of his early on-set prostate cancer, Neruda was forcibly administered a lethal overdose of Dipirona analgesic (injected into his stomach), precipitating a heart attack.  Just before lapsing into a coma, Neruda called Araya moments after the incident and informed him.  As Ohio University (Athens, Ohio) students, Suárez and Rodeiro learned that the Chilean poet had died; while they sat in the audience during a panel discussion about artists as political advocates.  The panel consisted of Robert Bly, Joyce Carol Oates, and Leslie Fiedler.  It was Bly who informed the audience that his friend Neruda had been murdered.  Bly was one of the top English translators of Neruda, as well as Lorca.   Soon, logically, the discussion turned to Lorca’s assassination in 1936.


Charles Hayes Pablo Neruda,

Ode In Water and Leaves, 2009


Roberto Marquez La Tormenta 1998, Oil on Canvas, 48" x 60"

George Nelson Preston

In the Bush They Come and Go


Raúl Villarreal

Yeah, yeah, I’ma go into this     Oil on canvas   40” x 30”   2018

In the 21st Century, beyond Morley, Villamizar, and Rodeiro, other significant contemporary artists address duende in their art.  For example, Virna Vargas and Charles Hayes and others have employed duende, either intrinsically and constantly (like Villamizar) or from time-to-time obliquely (like Rodeiro).   And so, the brilliant Latina artist Virna Vargas (in her prints and drawings) and the Whitman-esque artist Charles Hayes (in his photographs) manifest a duende that is distinct and potent.  For example, in her assorted 2-D works, Vargas realizes dramatic and highly emotive imagery predicated by her virtuoso use of vibrant and sublime black-shades.  Correspondingly, Charles Hayes, a Hudson River Valley shamanic artist, has been known to chase full-moon(s) [(as well as crescent moon(s) or half-moon(s)] with his camera, ecstatically ambushing the moon as “she” danced camouflaged within brambles.


Christie Devereaux Argento 12, 2009, Acrylic on canvas, 14" x 11"

Among the most prominent 21st Century American practitioners of duende are the following artists: Sergio Villamizar with his authentic and authoritative duende’s “duende;” Virna Vargas with her black-shade, sublime, and virtuoso  imagery; Charles Hayes with his Moonspun-images, which take duende to another level of profundity.”   Also of consequence is Hugo Morales’s Goya-esque Silent Scream Series, where he depicts a purely authentic duende.  The Brazilian master Duda Penteado’s initial imagery in the Glocallica Series alludes to Alechinsky, Motherwell, Picasso, Rothko and Gorky.    Several contemporary masters manifest the duende in their art, including: Susan Rothenberg, Christie Devereaux (in her Super Storm Sandy Series), Emanoel Araujo (within his monumental jet-black Afro-Brazilian sculptures), Gabriel Navar (who is haunted by the inimitable duende that lurks behind Octavio Paz’s poetry, Juan Rulfo’s novels, and José G. Posada’s sarcastic comic-illustrations), also important are these brilliant visual artists:  Jesus Rivera, Olga M. Bautista, Adrienne Wheeler, George Nelson Preston, and Chuck Plosky (in his Abuelita piece) to name a few.

The Duende in SCULPTURE?:

virna varas_untitled.jpg

Virna Vargas, Untitled, 2007


Bruce Rice, Duende Polyptych I, 2018-19

Duende is somewhat rare in “2-D” art; but, it is considered extremely sparse, scarce, or almost extinct in “3-D” art, as well as “4-D” art.  In most art historically valid examples of  “3-D” or “4-D” art (i.e., sculpture, architecture, ceramics, installation-art or crafts, etc.), the Andalusian  duende is hardly perceptible in those heavy-duty and steadfast art-forms, and this artistic dearth (or “paucity”) is probably why duende is so rare in “2-D” art, and even rarer (or “extraordinary”) in “3-D” art, as well as  “4-D” art, although it is less rare (or easier to detect) in “5-D” art, i.e., symphonies, operas, flamenco, poetry-recitals, plays, performances (acting), music, poetry, or any art done at the speed-of-life, which unifies or combines life’s natural gravitation, gesticulation, nuance, inflections, and variations within Earth’s polar-electromagnetism (in short, utilizing the natural dynamic flux of transcendent life-energy: elan vital).   In all dimensions beyond and including 5-D, the duende is at play.  In fact, in all probability, the duende (as an embodiment of Death, aka “Dark Energy”) is most likely apparent within current “new” extra-dimensional String Theory models, currently revealing additional unforeseen dimensions.  These “new” non-empirical extra-dimensions were discovered in the late-20th Century by scientists attempting to explore two puzzling enigmas: “cold” Dark Matter and “hot” Dark Matter.   As a result, several “new” abstract dimensions (beyond the original empirical five) have been identified, conjectured, and are currently being examined.  Sooner or later, human creativity and imagination will inevitably need to “transform” these new dimensions into art.  Importantly, perhaps, Duende Art already has; e.g., maybe, this explains Lorca’s odd doodles, or Wolfgang Paalen’s and Roberto Matta’s bizarre paintings.  


Theodore Roszak Rotting Skull, Bronze with Patina, 16" x 9" x 8.6"

According to Lorca, the duende employs basic elements or things; rising-up from the soul of the feet, moving immanently from ground-level upward.  Furthermore, in his Duende Essay, Lorca informs us that, “Whatever has black . . . has duende!   There is no greater truth in art!”   Black is the unity of all colors; both Manet and Picasso saw black as a quintessential shade for enhancing a hue’s innate chroma; e.g., adjacent to a dark black, a blue appears bluer, and a red redder, etc.   In the same way that black is comprised of all hues; so presumably is the First Dimension (“1-D”) surreptitiously and covertly comprised of all dimensions as conjectured in Einstein’s The General Theory of Relativity.    As a consequence of operating within the confines of death, the duende seeks extreme flatness: a pulsating horizontality of one flat dimension (“1-D”).   Einstein’s realization in The General Theory of Relativity that gravity causes all flatness to inevitably curve (as part of the phenomenon of a curved spacetime) proves that “1-D” flatness clearly contains more than just “1-D” flatness.  For example, since the 1990s, several Flat Space String Theories propose as many as 26 different dimensions, especially within the Bosonic model.   Beyond the original five-dimensions, all fundamental Superstring Theories, [(i.e., the metaphysical “M-theory” (the “Membrane Theory” aka “Magic,” “Mystery,”  and/or  “Mother Theory”))] propose at least 10 or 11 additional dimensions.  Yet, almost in contradiction to the extra-dimensional realms inherent in his Duende Theory, Lorca (in accord with the duende’s requirement of ease, genuineness, and effortless simplicity) prefers Saint Augustine’s clear-cut delineation of three sequential stages


Chuck Plosky Abuelita

marking temporal demarcations: “Past,” “Present,” and “Future,” even though Augustine argues in Book XI of The Confession that none of these distinctions actually exist.  And, through voluntary self-deception, human-beings conveniently use these non-existent delineations  (“Past,” “Present,” and “Future”) to differentiate moments in time.   In fact, Lorca’s entire theory hinges on Augustinian temporality with its overemphasis on the “present,” instead of the fluid flowing melodic durational temporal theories of Spinoza, Hume, Bergson, Husserl, T. S. Eliot, Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze, which unify time, by fusing each moment together as one.   Did Augustine learn about “Time” from one of his Manichaean professor at the University of Carthage in 372 CE ?  In fact, at that time and afterward, the re-establish town of Carthage (with its Manichaean “think-tank” (described by Augustine) stood exactly on the caravan route, which guided the Gypsies into Andalusia.

By and large, Lorca’s theory is, for the most part, antithetical to “things” that are too solid, immovable, or sculptural.  Almost certainly, an Andalusian emaciated floating Saturnal phantom (“the duende”) would find it extremely difficult to pester or confront brawny artists perspiring to make aesthetically gratifying cumbersome objects by means of hammering, forging, carving or sculpting.   No duende (worth his salt) is attracted to Masonic “object-things,” which inherently over-emphasize labor (or even worse, “craftsmanship”) instead of focusing exclusively on sheer artistic “freedom,” “virtuosity,” and creative brilliance, because Lorca’s essay discards “discipline” and “mastery.”   It is important to remember that the duende always prefers or values genius over ingenuity.  Hence, “ideally,” most artful and crafty 3-D artists need “merely” the nine muses to inspire them.  Moreover, as it pertains to 3-D art in general; even angels are hugely disillusioned, or predominantly “turned-off,”  by all the insatiable materialism, endless tinkering, the overwhelming focus on what Heidegger or Luis Buñuel called it 'the thingness of things' and the manifest spatial-territorialism that intrinsically governs the disciplines of  sculpture, architecture, ceramics, installation-art or 3-D crafts, etc. 

Nonetheless, despite Marcel Duchamp’s anti-sculptural sculptures: “readymades” with their light, witty, and comic touch.  Nevertheless, Duchamp’s angelic “readymades” fall short of the duende’s severe aesthetic standards.  Despite, the plethora of  obstacles impeding 3-D and 4-D arts’ possession of the duende; below are listed a few rare examples of 3-D masters with authentic bona fide duende inhabiting or impacting their sculptures, monuments, buildings, objects, installations, artifacts and utensils, etc.  All the same, these rare and arcane sculptural manifestations of the duende are 99% uncommon; nevertheless, from primordial antiquity until today, they remain art historically feasible, existent --- but, very, very rare.


Moai figures, Ahu Nau Nau, Easter Island, Polynesia, c. 1000–1500 CE. Volcanic stone. Average height approx 36' (11 m)

According to art theorist, Arthur Danto, sadly, the “muses’ inspired” Andy Warhol Brillo Box (1963) definitively ended art history; igniting a slew of endless “readymades;” found-objects, and other hyper-conceptual contrivances that in the late-20th Century and early-21th Century represent all that unfortunately remains of contemporary sculpture, especially throughout academia, although Chino-Canadian artist Terence Koh’s gold-plated excrement pieces (known as “Poop Art”) and his spermatozoon works provide some duende, as well as considerable DNA.   Awareness of duende-art allows the Andalusian duende freedom to intercede in an artist’s art, facilitating transformative improvements to their art.  Habitually, nearly all 3-D object-makers when producing a work rely too much on pure drudgery (calculations, mechanics, programming, preconceptions and industry). Production, industry, mechanics, and technology are all concerns that belong to the muses, especially the logical muse: Urania.    All this crafty “manufacturing,” reminds one of the famous Gypsy quote, “I don’t want to see work; not even in photographs!”  Or, Lorca’s famous line from The Duende Essay, attributed to the Gypsy Ignacio Espeleta, “How am I to work, if I come from Cadiz?”  


Shiva Nataraja, Bronze sculpture

Nevertheless, this essay speculates that occasionally the duende manifests in sculpture as well as other sculpture-related art works, whenever virtuosity, spontaneity, passion, emotion, vitality or energy appear in 3-D as well as 4-D works.  For example, the Louvre’s highly-animated, but, badly wrecked 2nd Century BCE Nike of Samothrace has several of these above-listed desirable  duendesque qualities; as do some imaginatively animated Shiva Nataraja bronzes (although not all).  We unmistakably find the duende in Easter Island’s giant Moai figures (1000 CE).  In addition, the duende inhabits the 10th Century CE, Gero Crucifixion (Cologne, Germany); the carved Prophet Jeremiah from the inner trumeau of Saint-Pierre, Moissac, France, or The Vesperbild Pieta (c. 1300 CE).   The duende dwells in bronze works by Antonio del Pollaiuolo; and is present in two of Michelangelo’s unfinished marble works: The Opera del Duomo Pieta and The Rondanini Pietà; along with inhabiting some of Bernini’s more imaginatively animated works.  Also, possessing attributes associated with the duende are a number of African tribal works from  Ivory Coast to the Congo, whose assorted wooden sculptures hint at the duende.   Every time that Rodin collaborates with Camile Claudel, the duende is clearly visible; additionally, the duende haunts Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia; and is present in passionate works by Kollwitz and Lehmbruck.   Both angels and the duende are apparent in Boccioni’s Unique Forms of Continuity in Space.   Plus, each of


Pythokritos of Rhodes, Nike of Samothrace. marble, 2.73 meters,Musée du Louvre, Paris, France

these exceptional 3-D and 4-D  late-20th Century and early-21st Century masters exude an authentic duende in their art, i.e., Emanoel Araujo, Ana Mendieta, Kiki Smith, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Herb Rosenberg (The Bombing of Baghdad, 2003), Chuck Plosky (La Abuelita), Adrienne Wheeler, Olga Mercedes Bautista, as well as some installations by Bill Viola. 

A clear sign that someone truly has a viable duende is usually their total repudiation of the concept; or their firm denial, insisting that they do not possess duende.   This negativity always indicates that they do; but, normal human chthonic-phobia; anti-Thanatosism; fear of success, fear of greatness, fear of phantoms, fear of suffering, lethargy as well as the ordinary “normal” fear of death fuel their defiant disclaimers.  




Theodore Roszak The Unknown Political Prisoner (Defiant and Triumphant), 1952, steel, TATE, London.

Olga Mercedes Bautista Campesinas


Duda Penteado Mutiles, 1995, polychrome ivory, 30" x 33" x 15"

Of all the modern 3-D masters, (whether he was aware of the fact - or not), Prussian-American sculptor, Theodore Roszak displayed the most duende.   He was for 3-D art what Motherwell was for 2-D art.  Roszak was a world-class American visual artists with tons of duende.  He met Dali through Julien Levy 1939, when both Roszak and the Spaniard were working on projects organized by Levy at the New York World’s Fair, Flushing Meadows, Queens, New York.  Plus, in the late-1930s, both artists exhibited in The Julien Levy Gallery.  Roszak also showed with Adolph Gottlieb, Robert Motherwell, Alexander Calder, John Chamberlain, and other artists at The Hugh Stix’s Artists’ Gallery; an institution created in 1936 by Hugh Stix for unaffiliated artists (without gallery contracts) to exhibit.  From 1941 until 1955, he taught sculpture at Sarah Lawrence College; where he was a colleague of the celebrated mythologist Joseph Campbell.  Beginning in 1951, he had a series of solo shows at The Pierre Matisse Gallery; where he met Roberto Matta, Wifredo Lam, George McNeil, and other artists well-versed in duende-theory. During the Sao Paulo Biennial, he was awarded The Purchase Award from the Museu de Arte Moderna, Sao Paulo, Brazil, and he obtained a prestigious Frank G. Logan Medal from the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as other awards.  His gifted daughter Sarah also manifests the duende in her powerful art.  The gritty skeletal Neo-Surreal sculptures of 21st Century Brazilian genius Duda Penteado often directly allude to Roszak’s expressive and imaginative forays into the duende.


Herb Rosenberg The Bombing of Baghdad, (Detail), 2003, 8' x4' x3" Aluminum.

The Science of Duende:

According to several neurologists, the human brain is a triune cognitive system comprised of three (“3”) distinctly different brains.  Neurologist, Paul MacLean has identified and named three:  1). the original core or basal-brain: the “Reptilian” or “R-complex” brain, which he calls the nutritive brain.  The next brain that MacLean recognized is 2). the Paleo-mammalian or Limbic System Brain that he named, “the Mammal brain” or sensitive brain (aka  emotional brain).  And lastly, he has explored the vast potential of  3). the Neo-cortex or cerebrum, which he has designated the mental-brain.  Some scientists speculate that the human nervous system informs all three brains simultaneously with the same identical information.  However, due to how each brain functions; or is ultimately designed (or how each slowly evolved); they respond or react differently to ‘received-data.’   For example, the reptile brain is primal (primordial), rudimentary, and survival-oriented; it is only concerned with ‘present-consciousness’ and self-preservation.  Yet, in terms of Lorca’s theory, it is this hyper-aware and self-preserving  conscious reptile brain that best manifests or correlates to the duende.   When creating art by means of an intercession with an ever-present death-laden “now;” presumably, only about 1% of all artists utilize their reptile brain to properly channel (or attain) duende’s inspiration.

On the other hand, Lorca’s muses agitate the Limbic System’s mammal brain (the sensitive brain), which is concerned with 90% of human creativity, as well as all phenomenal and transcendental things, especially creature comfort(s), approbation, approval, success, nesting, materialism, companionship, sexual pleasure, affection, and other reassurances.  In contrast, the futuristic “new brain” or Neo-Cortex mental-brain controls about 9% of all angelic artistic inspiration, and is where immanent superconscious activity reigns, e.g., where telepathy, parapsychology, metaphysics, noumena and the numinous occur.  When it springs-forth from the soul or the heart, “Immanentism” can be superconscious (future-directed).  However, when it rises-up from the marrow of the bones, “Immanentism” manifests duende’s present consciousness. The muses are never immanentist; they are, at all times, merely transcendental.
The nature of existence is also of concern for those who exude duende, e.g., Motherwell collaborated with Paalen on various projects (including the journal DYN, which stands for dynaton, a Greek term, indicating, "That which is possible;” a concept that is almost identical to Alfred Jarry’s discovery of Pataphysics, indicating in art the role of relativity and hyper-awareness within the exact spot that exactly marks where a person stands within a fixed Augustinian present.  Both dynaton and Pataphysics allude the theory of the duende.   Thus, Physics references the past with its muses, Metaphysics indicates the angelic future, and Pataphysics is about the here and now (present), especially in terms of "that which is possible” — the duende.

Another triune scientific or psychological analogue that indirectly relates to Lorca’s theory of muses, angels, and the duende is evident within Freudian and Post-Freudian psychoanalytical theories.  For example, Breton’s and Dalí’s [currently] much maligned hero, Sigmund Freud (Father of Psychoanalysis) divided-up human awareness into three distinct capacities, which are: 1. consciousness, 2. pre-consciousness, and 3. sub-consciousness, as well as dividing human-personality into three corresponding traits (Ego, Id, and Super-Ego).  However, in order to meet the requirements of Lorca’s Duende theory, an addition (or a superimposition) of Gwendolyn Bays’s Theory of Superconsciouness should be overlain on-top of Freud’s established three levels-of-awareness; thereby reorganizing and reconsidering them as: the UNCONSCIOUS memory-realm of the past; the SUPERCONSCIOUS prophetic- realm of the future; and the CONSCIOUS here-&-now realm of the present.  According to this psychological tri-part system, muses reside within UNCONSCIOUS memory or the past; relating to Freud’s notion of the “Id:” because whatever is greatly coveted always secretly relates to feelings of loss or recollection.  In this memory realm, muses guide and prohibit.   Muses are “Id-realizing” entities, searching for lost or forgotten past(s), wherein historically, the sensitive-brain’s mammalian [(physical or materialistic)] emotive-needs are met.   Hence, muses summon forth glorious, joyful, or sad memories (i.e., Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey)(10) that reorient or reinvigorate our aspirations (via art or other tasks) that aim at ambition, success, celebrity, academic notoriety and/or fame.   Consequently, the Id is what a person wants to be.  Acclaimed 20th Century artists (i.e., Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, and Andy Warhol) fit this “Muses-based” Id-ian mode to a “T.”

On the other hand, Lorca’s angels dwell in a future-oriented SUPERCONSCIOUS realm(s); relating to Freud’s notion of the “Super-Ego:” because what is “wished-for” always furtively transmits, at least, insightful revelations about future aspirations.  Gwendolyn Bays held that, “The superconscious mind contains the future; in the same way, an acorn contains an oaktree.”  Prophetically, angels dazzle and shed grace; permitting spiritual or angelic Super Egos to fly toward ethereal, celestial, and airy goals, i.e., paradise, heaven, clouds, pinnacles or even William Blake’s heavenly “hell.”   Via metaphysical spirituality, the mental-brain’s superconsciousness connotes fanciful, brilliant, and imaginative fantasy-worlds, which include(s) our Super Ego’s dreams and wishes for the future.
Over the course of millions of years, each brain allegedly grew out of (or evolved from) the previous brain; the original root-brain being the reptilian R-complex brain, which slowly eventually generated the mammal-brain (sensitive brain), wherein muses abide reflecting on all things past.   However, due to its focus on the present, Lorca’s duende exists in the reptilian sphere.   The duende’s reptile-brain is fixated on present-consciousness; obsessed, and mistrusting of everything surrounding it; overwhelmed by a true and devastating “critical paranoia,” which goes far beyond Dalí’s mere fear-of-criticism (Dalí’s apprehension concerning Kantian critiques).  Instead with terribilità, the duende inhabits the here-&-now, relating to Freud’s notion of the “Ego.”  Yet, despite its numerous exaggerations of Fichtean egotism, duende is the hardest thing to (do, or) achieve in art owing to the fact that one must be totally aware of everything that surrounds one, and (completely in the present), i.e., Goya’s Black Paintings, Pollock’s action paintings, and Motherwell’s Eligies.  In the 21st Century, to be in the state of duende is to be completely aware, as you confront yourself confronting yourself, without disguise(s), courageously facing who you actually are —free of role-playing, games, ruses, camouflage, make-up or masks.   Without concealment of any kind, the duende represents (via art) failure as triumph and triumph as failure, because it “brazen out” and thoroughly individualizes precisely what a truly creative person is capable of: “creation made act (11).”

Duende & Time

For Lorca, the key issue is “time,” because of the way in which he perceived duende as being the rarest and hardest creative inspiration to achieve in art.  Hence, there cannot be tons of duende art easily manufactured by any one artist, since duende rarely and “occasionally” arrives when an artist least expects it.   Accordingly, Lorca tried to reinforce this idea by stating that duende only occurs in the present and that the most extraordinary duende-creativity always appears in the explicit “present.”  Thus, duende art is always “present” and for the duende, only the present exists.   Consequently, duende art (like a Pollock drip-painting) remains forever caught in the present, making the idea of time meaningless within any form of duende art.  Consequently, Goya’s “Black Paintings” ought to be desired, and treasured because they exude a volcanic duende, which is so seldom manifested in art.  Therefore, the idea of "forced" new duende art entirely fails to comprehend Lorca’s view of duende, and thoughtlessly violates Lorca's entire theory.   Pumping out new duende art to keep current (“up-to-date” or “hot”) is wrong, because every museum affirms that great arts’ ultimate value results from eternality and timelessness, which makes great art always current, and permanently manifesting the “now,” despite the false and non-existent deceit of either Augustinian or Cartesian time.  Although, in truth, some rare artists are more in-tune with duende, but Lorca also focuses on less-rare artists (foolishly resisting duende like “The Girl of the Combs” in the essay), which are suddenly and unexpectedly overwhelmed by duende.   So, the exact “age” and date of a duende-piece of art does not actually matter, instead what matters is having the scarcest of all rare qualities: the duende.


Lorca’s Duende essay is within the Appendix of Ben Belitt’s translation of Lorca’s POET IN NEW YORK, Grove Press Book (NYC, NY).   Also, New Directions published it in another translation by Christopher Maurer in a book entitled: In Search of Duende.   There is also a another version available online: A. S. Kline’s translation of Lorca’s Theory & Play of the Duende.
1(a & b). Hesiod. Theogony 52-76 [The Muses are Calliope, Clio, Euterpe, Thalia, Melpomene, Terpsichore, Erato, Polyhymnia and Urania]. Living on Mount Helicon near Apollo’s Mount Parnassus; the Muses follow a daily routine.  Before sunset, each muse arrives on Parnassus to comfort Apollo; and at dawn, each departs (after he chariots-off -- carrying the sun across the sky).
2(a & b). Garcia-Lorca, Federico. The Duende: Theory and Divertissement (1934) Ben Belitt translation, 1955.      In the above essay, Lorca compares the well-known mischievous Galician-Celtic leprechaun duendes of northern Spain, contrasting those imps with the rare Andalusian Saturn-like presence of “Death” striding across the earth in the here-and-now (“the present”).
3. Ana Dali (Salvador Dalí’s sister’s account of her brother’s amorous relationship with Lorca); although Dalí vehemently denied this in The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí. However, the love affair was described in Antonina Rodrigo’s “Lorca Dali – Una Amistad traicionada,” Barcelona: Editorial Planeta, 1981.
4. Dali’s sharp reaction to the news of Lorca’s assassination in 1936; abruptly cutting-off Gala's and his vacation in Switzerland, “temporarily” vowing to return to Spain to avenge his friend’s death by joining the Fascist rebellion.  The irony of this is that Lorca was executed by right-wing Fascist elements in Granada.
5a.  The dichotomous distinctions of  “The Within” and “The Without” were first elaborated in the 18th Century by Johann Gottlieb Fichte.  Following Fichte’s lead, in The Phenomenon of Man, Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin argued that all things have a “Within” and a “Without;” he defined “The Within” as being “real”  (or innate) consciousness and “The Without” as being external physical matter. "The Within" is specific, particular, and concrete; while "The Without" fosters generalities and abstractions.   These Teilhardean  ideas are somewhat parallel to Martin Heidegger’s thingness  or  Duane Locke’s concept of “Thing/Thing metaphysics.”  Jacques Derrida views the opposition inherent in  "The Within" and "The Without" as being a perfect binary system.
5b. Via Roberto Matta and other friends, Lorca often received updates on Dalí’s whereabouts, activities, ideas, and art; equally Dali kept abreast of Lorca’s art and life (2).  Dalí’s marriage to Gala further estranged him from Lorca.
6.   Gleaves Robert M. “Neruda and Lorca: A Meeting of Poetic Minds.” Research Studies, 48 (3), September, 1980.   During this 1933 Buenos Aires period, Lorca and Neruda collaborated on other events and presentations; Lorca also travelled to other nearby Latin American countries.
7.a.  Wordsworth, William. 4th edition Lyrical Ballads 1805.
7.b. Gleaves, Robert M.,  “Neruda and Lorca: A Meeting of Poetic Minds.”  Poets of the Hispanic World. University of North Carolina: Research Studies. 48.3 (Sept. 1980). 17 – April, 2007.
8.  Duende Exhibition at Passaic County Community College’s Broadway & LRC Galleries: http://www.pccc.cc.nj.us/uploads/06/5c/065c05506a4bcbcbb4dbe73a8f91eb98/Hispanic-Heritage-Headlines.pdf This groundbreaking exhibition curated by Ms Jane Haw precipitated this essay: DUENDE  ARTS  by José Rodeiro  (2010-2013).
9.  Villarreal, René & Raúl. Hemingway’s Cuban Son. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2011. Ernest Hemingway was the Godfather of René Villarreal.  Hemingway had a close relationship with Picasso, Miró, and some of the other 20th Century artists mentioned in the above essay.  Passages in Hemingway’s novels sporadically manifest the duende’s tragic ebullience; e.g., it is to some extent present in the final chapter of To Have & Have Not  (1937).
10.  William Wordsworth’s poem:  “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798.”
11.  These artists and artworks are closely identified with the duende:  Lascaux Cave, Altamira Cave, Grunewald, Durer’s prints (Death and Apocalypse), Tintoretto, Artemisia Gentileschi, Goya’s late-works, Géricault, Van Gogh, R. A. Blakelock, A. P. Ryder, Romero de Torres, Nolde, Kollwitz, Goitia, Orozco, Siqueiros, Bacon, Motherwell, Pollock, Kline, Rothko, McNeil, Lam, Saura, Millares, Rafael Canogar, Ana Mendieta, Anselm Kiefer, Malcolm Morley’s late-works, Sergio Villamizar, Charles Hayes, Virna Vargas, Hugo Morales, Herb Rosenberg, Christie Devereaux, Emanoel Araujo, Gabriel Navar, Jesus Rivera, Olga M. Bautista, Adrienne Wheeler, George Nelson Preston, as well as occasionally Duda Penteado, Chuck Plosky, Raúl Villarreal and José Rodeiro .


Sergio Villamizar, José Rodeiro, Charles Hayes, Duda Penteado, Raúl Villarreal, Christie Devereaux, Monica Camin, Hugo Morales, Olga Bautista, Lisette Morel & Bruce Rice.


Roberto Zamora Lorca 2011,

Oil on canvas, 24" x 30"