Ernest Hemingway’s Cuban Home


Dear Artist,

In 1954, when Ernest Hemingway learned that he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature, he remarked, “This prize belongs to Cuba, since my works were conceived and created here, with the inhabitants of Cojimar, of which I am a citizen.” Attracted at first by marlin and swordfish, Hemingway fell in love with Cuba and moved here in 1939.

“The Farm” 1922
oil on canvas, 48 3/4 x 55 5/8 inches
by Joan Miro (1893-1983)
purchased by Ernest Hemingway, 1922

For Hemingway, Cuba meant new scenery, new people and a clean start. From his experiences as an ambulance driver in the First World War, as well as in Spain, Chicago, Toronto, Michigan and Key West, he knew the value of a sense of place. In Cuba, the clatter of yet another language left his mind to form its own.

Here in the grounds of Finca La Vigia we step over a cemetery for his many cats and lay our hands on his trusted boat “Pilar.” In his home of 8,000 books, hunting and fishing trophies look down from the walls. Here is the table with the typewriter on which he wrote, The Old Man and the Sea. It’s a story about a Cuban fisherman who hooks into a giant marlin. Over four exhausting days he tries to get the fish alongside his tiny boat. Finally the marlin is attacked, devoured, and reduced to nothing by sharks. The irony is not wasted on creative people. Hemingway saw that life everywhere was fighting for its life. Life was struggle. He saw it here. Right here he finally and truly realized that the main thing, the most important thing, was courage.


Hemingway with his portrait (alias Kid Balzac)
by Waldo Pierce (1884-1970)

As our year rolls around and comes to an end, there seems to be opportunity for a new beginning. The first day of the New Year becomes a time for resolution and renewal. We reassess the year just past. We cast an eye to those we might admire. Hemingway inhaled life, adventure, love, laughter and challenge. He was a man of action. “Never mistake motion for action,” he said. Hemingway was to stay on here for twenty productive years. “His aim was to convey vividly and exactly moments of exquisite importance and poignancy.” (Charles Scribner, Jr.)


“The Athenaeum, Man with a Guitar”
1926 oil on canvas 
by Juan Gris (1887-1927)
Hemingway collection

Best regards,


PS: “Courage is grace under pressure.” (Ernest Hemingway)

Esoterica: Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) in The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms, became the spokesman of the disillusioned “lost generation.” He was the inventor of a hard and terse writing style and no stranger to the creative struggle. “When I have an idea, I turn down the flame, as if it were a little alcohol stove, as low as it will go. Then it explodes and that is my idea.”

This letter was originally published as “Ernest Hemingway’s Cuban Home” on December 27, 2002.


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“Always quit for the day when you know what you want to do next.” (Ernest Hemingway)



  1. I visited my dying friend, with hospice workers hovering, in a house crowded with memories of a busy, but sadly, not yet finished lifetime. I walked in her darkened bedroom where she lay, and she spoke to me as she turned her head and looked to the side at her bedroom wall where one of my early paintings was hanging. “Sharon, I would not let anyone take or move that painting, I have loved that painting and stared at it everyday while I have been sick, It would carry me down that road.” Over the years as neighbors, I would purge my paintings by throwing many of them away, and she would be waiting to dig through the trash to take home her favorites. After her expected death, her family cleaned out the house and my paintings were some of the first items to be claimed. Discarded art that is now being carried into a New Year with love, by my dear friend, “I will meet you someday on that road.”

  2. Most interesting read , we’ve been to Cuba three times and would like to return there again. loved the people and the scenery ,painted three paintings , and could have sold them severall times over . Keep up the good work .

    • But Mother Russia sent an emissary to collect all of Hemingway’s belongings as the citizens of Cuba were not allowed to own art.
      Doesn’t anyone know Hemingway’s history???????
      I do!
      Because someone in our family was friends with him!
      His secretary had to beg Castro for his belongings to be sent to New York!

    • One man’s folly is another man’s courage. Who knows? Perhaps Ernest had realized all that he wanted in this life and wanted to see what came next for him. We shouldn’t judge, as none of us are that particular individual. Life, and death, are bigger than any of us really can fathom.

  3. How did you guys add two and two and come up with being so clueless about the human condition. Depression, mental illness, nothing to do with courage or lack of it. people are complex, fragile, we are at the mercy of being ourselves, brain and personality, health, “type” and so much we do not choose. Unfortunately I have known people who took their own lives, and i have experienced the torture of feeling cornered, of no way out, no light and no hope. And I know so much that happens in life is down to luck, not courage. It can happen to anyone, mental illness, loss of the will to live. We really are not as in control as we like to think. It amazes me how much credit we human beings take for luck.

  4. I enjoyed this letter about Ernest Hemingway. I admire his writing style. I have wondered about him taking his own life, also. I think Catherine Barron’s thoughts on it, were very insightful. Human beings are complex. And then there are the issues of depression, and more. And Pegi’s comments most insightful. God who gives us love, wisdom, protection, peace and more, if we choose to have a relationship with Him.

  5. I wish everyone health and happiness for the rest of your lives in your art, in you appreciation of creativity and for being good people.

  6. When Robert wrote this letter, it was 2002. Since then a movie entitled Papa Hemingway in Cuba has been released. The mental illness Hemingway struggled with is well documented.

    Depression is an incredibly special condition occurring in humanity. Our eldest son tried to suicide twice 10 years ago. He has since written and just released the most amazing Amazon e-book about his mental illness, what events led to this, and his ultimate recovery. It is also a chilling true crime story.

    If you care to explore the events and thoughts that happen to an ‘ordinary’ person during a mental health crisis, I invite you to take a peek. Self-published and available ONLY online as an e-book or paperback, here is the link:

    Ice Cold and Deadly: A True Crime story of one man’s redemption and another’s destruction

    Someone once said that it is better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. So if you find this to be an intrusion, I ask your forgiveness.

    Kindest regards,

    Verna Korkie

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Featured Workshop

10-Day Watercolour Cruise — Pacific Coast
April 25, 2018 to May 5, 2018

richard-wong_workshopRelax, explore, paint and shop! Join Victoria wildlife artist, Richard Wong on a privately hosted Pacific Coastal Cruise from Vancouver, BC.  And experience the magic of watercolour on Japanese art paper.  Richard, a full-time professional painter, will guide you on a wildlife themed journey onboard the eloquent Star Princess.  You will learn how to create vibrant, attractive watercolour images from a unique blend of Asian and Western ways of making art.  Stops include Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Monterey and San Francisco.


Richard organized this west coast trip to include everyone:  friends and families, painters and non-painters; in partnership with Expedia CruiseShipCenters (Victoria, BC office only, Tracey Ball, (250) 381-7447/toll free 1-800-668-8122).  Choose from two options: “Paint & Cruise” (from $1,820 CAD/double occupancy/interior, includes all taxes, port fees, and 4 two hour classes with art supplies); OR “Cruise Only” (from $1,670 CAD/double occupancy/interior, includes all taxes, port fees).


You can learn more about Richard through his website:
Contacts:  either Richard Wong or Tracey Ball per the above. the Wall
oil on canvas
24 x 30 inches, 2017

Featured Artist

My aim as a painter is to bring to life a slice of the world as I experience it. Light, color and form are my vocabulary.


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