Wayne James Acquires Rare Watercolor by Francisco Coradel-Cugat (1893-1981), Painter of the Iconic Cover of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
Art collector and filmmaker Wayne James recently acquired a rare watercolor of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas’ Hotel 1829 by celebrated Spanish artist, Francisco Coradel-Cugat, perhaps best known for his famous painting that became the cover-image of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s great American novel, The Great Gatsby (1925). Born in Barcelona, Cugat was 12 years old when his father moved the family of six to the Caribbean, residing primarily in Cuba and Puerto Rico. Young Cugat attended an art academy in Havana, where he learned to draw and paint.
At age 16, Cugat declared to his family that art would be his profession and was promptly sent off to the French cathedral city of Rheims to live with a maternal aunt in order to study the French language and art. Cugat distinguished himself at school in Rheims, winning the bronze medal before, at age 18, moving to Paris to study at Ecole des Beaux Arts under the tutelage of Cormon.
Art being undoubtedly Cugat’s vocation, travel was arguably his avocation: He crossed the Atlantic on numerous occasions and cruised between the New World continents, the islands of the Caribbean, and traversed the jungles, mountains, and valleys of Central America.
Regularly exhibited in Spain, Hollywood, and New York in the 1920s, Cugat’s work was well-received by the press. And in July of 1943, his life and art were featured in an article in Esquire Magazine. Francisco Coradel-Cugat died in Westport, CT, in July of 1981. But his artistic legacy did not.
“A dear friend gave me the Cugat watercolor of Hotel 1829 in celebration of the March 27, 2022, World Premiere of my 3-part Cuba film, Going…Going…Gone: The Grandeur of Golden-Age Cuba,” James said. “She knows that the hotel is my favorite on St. Thomas, being situated in the heart of historic Charlotte Amalie, and she surprised me with the gift today. Cugat and I have Cuba and Virgin Islands connections, so it is very special to have one of his works as part of my collection.”
Wayne James’ fondness for Hotel 1829 reaches back more than a century. In 1937, when his father, Gustav Alexander James (1919-1983), was en route to Copenhagen, Denmark, to study, he stayed at Hotel 1829 for almost one month awaiting the arrival of the vessel Amerika upon which he sailed to Scandinavia. And Gustav’s father, Isaac Gateword James (1893-1978), who, 30 years earlier, in 1907, departed St. Croix to further his studies in Denmark, used to stay at Hotel 1829 in the early decades of the 1900s while in St. Thomas on business. Likewise, Wayne James has over the decades stayed at the hotel during his visits to St. Thomas for carnival and during his tenure as Senator of the United States Virgin Islands.
“Hotel 1829 is like my home on St. Thomas. I always feel as if I belong there in a special, profound way. And having this painting to grace my walls will forever make me feel at home, wherever I am in the world,” James concluded.