About this artwork
Walker Evans is perhaps best known for his dispassionate photographs of the American South during the Depression. It was during a 1933 assignment in Havana, Cuba, however, that he truly honed his eye as a social documentarian. Evans was hired by Carlton Beals to illustrate his book The Crime of Cuba, a polemical work that criticized American capitalists for their contribution to the island’s economic and political collapse. In the three weeks Evans spent in Havana, he was dismayed by the cultural crisis and police repression but visually delighted by the urban crowds, street grids, advertisements, and cinema posters. “It’s still a frontier town, and half savage, forgetful and unsafe,” he noted. “I have been drunk with this new city for days.” This photograph of a Cuban man—nonchalantly dapper in a white suit and skimmer hat, calling to mind the “dandy” figure praised by nineteenth-century critic and poet Charles Baudelaire—suggests Havana streets that were overwhelmingly male but racially diverse. Although omitted from Beals’s book, this image became one of Evans’s favorites, and he featured it in his landmark 1938 Museum of Modern Art exhibition and book, American Photographs.
Currently Off View
- Walker Evans
- Citizen in Downtown Havana, Cuba
- United States
- Gelatin silver print
- Unmarked recto; inscribed verso, on mount, upper right, sideways, in graphite: "31"
- 22.2 x 11.7 cm (image/paper); 45.7 x 35.6 cm (mount)
- Restricted gift of Mrs. James Ward Thorne