Born in Sagua La Grande, Cuba. Lam studied at the Academia San Alejandro in Havana 1921. He moved to Madrid to continue his studies under Fernando Alvarez Sotomayor, then the director of the Prado Museum. His first individual exhibition was held at the Galeria Vilches in Madrid in 1928 and was followed by numerous individual shows in Europe, the United States and Latin America.
In Paris, Lam met Picasso and the Surrealists, establishing strong relationships that would influence his oeuvre. He illustrated Breton’s book Fata Morgana in 1940. Lam returned to Cuba in 1941 via Haiti and went on to incorporate the image of Santería into his paintings. Lam’s paintings were included in the 1987-88 traveling exhibition Art of the Fantastic organized by the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Other subsequent exhibitions have further solidified Lam’s place in the history of the 20th century art.