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Esteban Chartrand (1840-1884)

One of the least documented and best loved of the colonial landscape painters, Esteban Chartrand has been fodder for much speculation and admiration. During his short lifetime and career, Chartrand produced a relatively small amount of artwork compared to his contemporaries. However, this makes his work even more desirable—Chartrand's art commanded the highest price recorded at auction of all the colonial Cuban landscape painters with his painting "The Runaways."

From early on, Chartrand always showed interest in art. His mother was a portrait painter, and encouraged his studies. At the mere age of fourteen, he was sent off to Paris to study art, and then again in 1864 in his early twenties. There, he studied under Theodore Russeau, a great landscape painter. Thus Chartrans' passion for French-style landscape painting was born, and this he brought back to Cuba.

It was not until around the 1880's that landscape painting became popular in Cuban, and Chartrand was at the forefront of this movement. Unlike his fellow French-style landscape painter, Guillermo Collazo, Chartrand painted scenes that were definitely of Cuba. Though highly stylized in the European way, his landscapes were clearly that of Cuban tropicalia, including all of the exotic floral of the island. A typical scene of Chartrands can be seen in his painting "Paisaje" (circa 1870s).


What many fail to notice about Chartrand is that he was truly a master of lighting. He would often paint scenes set in the evening, during the sunset "beauty light." His skies are always beautifully illuminated and seem almost photo realistic.

One of Chartrands best known works is more of a city scene with people in colonial-era dress, "El Baile".

El Baile, 1879

Among his oil paintings, Chartrand also did quite a few pencil on paper landscape sketches. Whether these were preliminary sketches for his oil paintings or simply sketches, to find one would be very exciting.

It is said that towards the end of his life, Chartrand documented every work he ever painted after his formal training was done. In total, he lists just over 100 oil paintings. In Cuba, between forty and fifty of his works are housed in local museums or private collections. In the United States, some thirty of his works are housed in galleries and museums. This leaves dozens of documented paintings still at large. Where are they? Who could own them? And what of his work he completed while still a student?

During his lifetime Chartrand completed a small amount of work compared to his contemporaries, but also left his mark on local Cuban buildings, such as the Lourdes Chapel. Today his work is housed all over the world, from Cuba to the United States.

Paisaje Con Rio