Roberto Estopinan, a sculptor, draftsman, and printmaker, was born March 17, 1921 in Havana, Cuba. He enrolled at the Academia San Alejandro when he was 14 and became the protege and studio assistant of the sculptor Juan José Sicre. After graduation he traveled first to Mexico, where he met and befriended Francisco Zuniga, and studied Pre-Columbian sculpture. In 1949 he traveled to Europe, visiting England, France and Italy. In these trips he encountered the sculpture of Henry Moore and Marino Marini, and their humanistic yet formal visions would be influential on Estopinan’s work.
Throughout the 1950s Estopinan received important sculpture prizes at various national exhibitions in Havana. In 1953 he was the only semi-finalist from Latin America at the Tate Gallery’s international sculpture competition for a Monument to the Unknown Political Prisoner. During the 1950s he worked in direct carving with native Cuban woods, as well as in direct plaster and welding – these works blend figural and abstract elements. The 1960s brought forth his series of political prisoners, warriors and crucifixions, mostly carved in wood or as welded nails. The 1970s work saw an abandonment of the rawness of the previous decade in favor of a pantheistic vision, where the sculptures reflected the textures and forms of nature.
Since the 1980s he has been involved with the female torso as his favorite expressive form. These bronzes tend to posses a minimal classicism, that emotionally range from sensual to pained. As a printmaker and draftsman, his production has been thematically parallel to his sculptures.
The most complete collection of his prints (1959-96) is in the Jersey City Museum in New Jersey, where an exhibition was hosted in the Spring of 1996.
Estopinan was active in the urban guerilla against Batista, and joined the diplomatic service after the triumph of the 1959 Revolution. By 1961, he became disillusioned with the dictatorial policies of the new regime and went into exile in the U.S.A. He lived in NYC from the 1960s until 2002, when he retired to Miami, Fla.
Together with Juan Jose Sicre, Alfredo Lozano and Agustin Cardenas, Estopinan is considered one of the pioneers of modern sculpture in Cuba and Latin America.