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However, the success of Toussaint and Dessalines' slave uprising spread intense anxiety throughout the Caribbean, and one response to it was the growth of costumbrismo - realist yet romanticized views of day-to-day life - in Cuban art.
A leading early artist in this genre was Spanish-born Víctor Patricio de Landaluze (1830 - 1889), whose paintings depicted plantation life as rough but essentially natural and harmonious.
By the late 1920s, the Vanguardia artists had rejected the conventions of Cuba's national art academy, the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes “San Alejandro”, in Havana, which most of them had attended.
In their formative years, many had lived in Paris, where they studied and absorbed the tenets of Surrealism, Cubism, and modernist Primitivism.
Modernism burst on the Cuban scene as part of the critical movement of national regeneration that arose in opposition to the dictatorship of Gerardo Machado, American neo-colonial control, and the consequent economic crisis.
They returned to Cuba committed to new artistic innovation and keen to embrace the heritage of their island.
These artists became increasingly political in their ideology, viewing the rural poor as symbols of national identity in contrast to the ruling elite of post independence Cuba.