Antonio Alejo and the Trade of Thinking

About an homage for the 200 th anniversary of San Alejandro

/ 1 September, 2018


Two hundred years in the life of an educational institution represents an invaluable amount of experiences, operations and foundational heritages that have been identifying it according to its development’s specific scenarios and situations. (…)

Today’s San Alejandro National Academy of Plastic Arts (…) was founded in 1818 under the direction of French Jean-Baptiste Vermay. After more than two decades of being headed by French, Italian and Spanish directors, in 1879 a native professor got the post by taking a competitive examination by the academy: Miguel Melero y Rodríguez. (…)

At the beginning of the 20th century San Alejandro had great prestige and the immense majority of the moment’s artistic personalities went through its spaces (…). After almost 30 years (…) opened its horizons: the staff of teachers was renovated and increased, new chairs were introduced—like that of engraving— (…) Airs of innovation arrived to the Academy with the young Revolution (…) in January 1959. Unheard of strategies that sought to have an impact in the diversification of the artistic possibilities and of the social function of art (…).

Successive generations attended the forming grounds of the Academy which would later alternate in the national and international scene (…).


Antonio Alejo was born in Cienfuegos in 1917. A few years later his family established itself in Havana, and between 1933 and 1938 he studied painting, drawing and modeling in the then San Alejandro National School of Fine Arts, where three years later he also graduated as a professor. (…) By 1948 Alejo established himself in Santa Clara and in that city he founded together with a group of professors the Leopoldo Romañach School of Plastic Arts. For almost 20 years, in that school he taught History of Art as well as Drawing and Painting, alternating this work with the artistic education in the Leoncio Vidal Camp (…) and with his work in the Marta Abreu Central University of Las Villas.

Toward 1964 (…) he returned to the capital and worked (…) in the National Council of Culture. But his authentic vocation continued being that of a teacher and he continued giving lessons in the National School of Art (ENA); (…) his participation in conferences, diverse kinds of commissions, seminars, panels (…) that also led him to travel to France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Holland, Mexico and the United States.


In 1966 Alejo returned to San Alejandro (…) where he remained active until his retirement in the early 1990s. (…) Tall, slim and upright, wearing thick glasses, he would continuously walk the corridors of the Academy with an affable smile and thousands of stories under his arm. In perpetual tune with the original and the experimental (…) he acted like a walking encyclopedia that was able to establish logical and natural work connections or the concern of any student regarding the total universe of artistic creation. (…)

More than 50 years in the teaching trade and hundreds of students (…) made of him one of the best- known and respected professors in the Cuban cultural milieu. (…) Antonio Alejo’s theories not only have many followers of his way of teaching, he also generated innumerable friends. (…) Diaphanous, agile, he was always ready to share and was open to all ways of doing. He invariably found advice precisely for any initiative, in the figurative as well as abstract spheres, in the avant-garde and experimental territories or in the most traditional or conventional. He thus conceived an established consensus in the commitment to the freedom of expressive and symbolic resources which the authentic creative exercise demands. (…)

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