Jose Maria Mijares Fernandez was born in La Habana, Cuba , in 1921. He began artistic studies in 1936 at the School of Art of San Alejandro in Havana , where his professors included Romanach, Menocal, Valderrama, Ramon Loy, Caravia, etc. Mijares himself, credits one of his most influencial professors, Ponce , with helping him develop his own stlye of expression.
Jose Maria Mijares left Cuba but Cuba never left Mijares. ”In my subconscious there is an inner landscape that is Cuba ,” the painter said in an interview in 2001. “Since I was exiled at an older age, that landscape cannot be erased.¨Indeed, images of his native country blossomed frequently on his canvases.¨Mijares, world renowned for his mastery of oil painting, his pioneer exploration of geometric abstraction in Cuban art of the 1950s and his neobaroque compositions of the exile period
Ponce was my first influence. He, Carlos Enraquez, Rene Portocarrero, Cundo Bermedez and others from the generation that preceded mine became known as the Havana School.’¨His first major showing was in 1944, at a national exhibition in Havana ‘s Capitol building. There, he won second prize with a painting titled La Alameda, The Boulevard. His style at the time was figurative but in the 1950s changed to what he described as “concrete forms.¨The arts scene in Havana in the 1950s was grim, he recalled in an interview. ”There were no galleries,” he said. “They all went broke. The only places where one could exhibit were the Fine Arts Circle and the Lyceum Lawn Tennis Club.¨He went back to San Alejandro, this time as a teacher, and taught there for two years. He resigned when Fidel Castro came to power. He left Cuba in 1968 and came to Miami . His geometric style changed with the change in surroundings.”I went back to figurative painting: people and landscapes,” he said.¨Mijares was a prolific painter even in his waning years, working about six hours a day, beginning at sunrise.Florida International University gave Mijares an honorary doctorate in fine arts in December 2001.
During the 1950’s he participated in exhibitions at Grand National Salon, Havana; Museum of Modern Arts, Paris; National Museum of Haiti and Venezuela. In 1953, he exhibited at the Biennial in Sao Paul and in 1956 at the Biennial in Venice. His works have been exhibited in Cuban Prints and in Tokyo, Japan in 1964. A silkscreen edition was issued in Havana in 1966. He has lived permanently in Miami since 1968. His works have been shown at the Bacardi Art Gallery, Lowe Art Museum and Gloria Luria Gallery. He has also participated in: Ten Cuban Painters; Pan American Union in Washington, 1968; Retrospective of Cuban Painting in Miami, 1976; Latin American Artist s; Lower Art Museum in Miami, 1978; Latin American Treasures Center for the Fine Arts in Miami, 1987 and in Outside Cuba, a travelling exhibition inaugurated in 1987 by the Office of Hispanic Arts in Rutgers University, New Jersey.