Haitian Art Club

This group is solely for lovers and admirers of Haitian art. We are collectors, artists, dealers, novices, scholars, experts, brokers, and those who are just curious in learning about Haitian art, et cetera. ALL are welcome to join this group to share their Haitian art collections; and/or to discuss Haitian art.

About Haitian Art

Brief Overview of Haitian Art

Haitian art came into its own slowly and its genesis goes back very far, well before the emergence of the Haitian people, before the arrival of slave ships and the caravels of Columbus, in the marvelous paintings realized by the Taino Indians on the walls of caves and the colored graphics they made on their naked bodies and the walls of their huts. The painting tradition was consolidated and enriched in the worldwind of Saint Domingue with the works of "talented negroes," and reached its first blossoming in the newly born Haitian nation under the governments of Christophe, Petion, Boyer, and Soulouque, with painters such as Denis, Thimoleon Dejoie, Numa Desroches, Colbert Lochard and his son Archibald Lochard.

After a difficult period due for the most part to political instability, economic stagnation, the rise of photography and the introduction of chromolithography and during which such artists as Louis Rigaud, Edouard Goldman, Lorvana Pierrot Lagojanis distinguished themselves against great odds, Haitian painting experienced a renewal in the 1930s. With Petion Savain, Georges Remponneau, Edouard Preston, and Antoine Derennoncourt as its coy?re, the Ecole Indigeniste was formed which lead to the creation of the Cente d'Art. Many artists were then discovered, among them Hector Hyppolite, Philome Obin, Castera Bazile, Rigaud Benoit, Prefete Duffaut, Jacques Enguerrand Gourgue, Wilson Bigaud, Louverture Poisson. Among the non-primitive artists who participated early at the Centre d'Art, it is worth noting the names of Luce Turnier, Lucien Price, Antonio Joseph, Max Pinchinat, Lucner Lazare, Elzire Malbranche, and Roland Dorcely.

In 1950, following a disagreement, many artists led by Rene Exume, Lucien Price, Max Pinchinat and Dieudonne Cedor left the Centre d'Art to create the Foyer des Arts Plastiques. There emerged the Realisme de Cruaute so brilliantly illustrated by Cedor, Nehemy Jean, Denis Vergin, and Denis Emile.

From the Foyer des Arts Plastiques emerged the Galerie Brochette founded by Dorcely, Cedor, Lazare. Without breaking completely with l'Indigenisme and the Realisme de Cruaute, Haitian painting became more conscious of purely esthetic standards and took a more intellectual and modern orientation, in particular with Spencer Depas, Villard Denis (Davertige), Jacques Gabriel, and Gerard Hyppolitte. Rose-Marie Desruisseaux got her initiation into painting at the Galerie Brochette. .

At the Centre d'Art, Andre Pierre and other primitive artists had enhanced the reputation of Haitian art, while Gesner Armand joined the ranks of the sophisticated artists.

Founded in the early '60's, Calfou was the last great association of Haitian artists. With Bernard Wah, painting took a decisive turn towards l'Esthetique de la Beaute. This school which is more formal and less socially engaged, made a definitive break with l'Indigenisme. It found its more forceful expression in the works of Bernard Sejourne, Jean-Rene Jerome, Simil, Jean-Pierre Theard, Carol Theard, Jean-Claude Legagneuy?r, and Philippe Dodard. At the margin of l'Ecole de la Beaute, one should mention such artists as Ronald Mews, Fravrange Valcin, Celestin Faustin, and Jean-Claude Garoute (known as Tiga).

Of a style that is totally different but that catches the attention immediately, the works of Sacha Thebaud, Frank Etienne, and Marilene Phipps are realized in an advanced modern style.

During the '60s, Saint-Soleil emerged in the hills of Laboule as a powerful renewal of the primitive school. Within that trend, Stivenson Magloire's work constitutes an incomparable statement of primitive art. .

Today the vitality of Haitian art, both in Haiti and abroad is an astonishing reality. Today's promising artists are numerous, such as Lyonel St Eloi, Marithou Latortue Dupoux, Fritzodt Antoine, Pascal Moin, Joselus Joseph, Pascal Smarth, Engels, Odille Latortue, Albert Desmangles, Elie Lescot Jr., Essud Fungcap, Marilene Phipps, Patrick Wah and Jean Marcel Wah, Jr. And more than ever, its future is assured.

Michel-Philippe Lerebours
Art Historian
* Translated by Max Blanchet, Berkeley, CA.

Haitian Painting: Reflections on Naifs and Moderns

Haitian painting is often perceived as the work of 1⁄2naif1⁄2 painters, celebrated by Breton and Malraux and promoted on art markets by North American art merchants and collectors too eager to make a profit, thus hiding from the public, especially in Europe, the other trends in which abound the likes of Albert Mangones, Geo Remponeau, James Petersen, Maurice Borno, Gerald Bloncourt--who in 1944 founded with Dewitt Peters the Centre d'Art--and Lucien Price, Petion Savain, Luce Turnier, Antonio Joseph, Tamara Baussan, Andre Normil, Luckner Lazard, Xavier Amiama, Dieudonne Cedor, Andre Pierre Pailli, Jacques Enguerrand-Gourgue, etc.

Later on, they were joined by Gesner Armand, Roland Dorcely, Elzire Malebranche, Nehemy Jean, Georges Hector, Rose-Marie Deruisseau, Bernard Wah, Angel Botello-Barros, Emilcar Simil,Jean-Rene Jerome, Philippe Dodard, Jean Pierre Theard, Ronald Mevs, and so many others that it is impossible for me to name them all here.

In tallying these Haitian painters called modern, who carved for themselves a more than honorable place even on the American market, one would be surprised to note that they are more numerous than the naif painters, at least those who left their mark on the saga of Haitian painting during the last 40 years.

One should not, however, minimize the role played by these extraordinary naifs, most notably those in the dynasty of Obin, Guy Dorcin, Eugene and Jean-Baptiste Jean, Etienne Chavannes, Bottex, and others, who were the sparks that triggered the fabulous adventure of the painters of the marvelous.

They have been--one must stress that fact--at the genesis of this extraordinary harvest of Haitian painters of all schools that abound in the country. They in truth opened the breach through which rushed in their wake all these other painters.

Furthermore, one should keep from putting naifs against moderns as do some jounalists longing for folklore, because their work constitutes Haitian painting marked with the seal of the same culture. .

The adjective "naif," put in quotation marks on purpose, has never been clearly defined. Yielding to a comfortable and above all blamable quickness under the pressure of the market, many of the so-called critiques so characterized a group of artists that should have been defined differently. I am speaking of the humorist painters, of those of Vodou, of all those painters of dreams, whose artistic output is not envious of the genius of so many painters in the world whom nobody in his or her right mind would call naifs! Unfortunately, the larger public and even some well informed amateurs were caught up in this deep and deplorable confusion! This confusion has become so deeply entrenched over the years, that a large majority of the French public thinks even today that Haitian painting is strictly naif.

Is not the term naif in painting too often used to designate in a simplistic manner the person who paints from instinct scenes embellished with detailed minutiae, without prior knowledge of the so-called rules governing perspective and composition? Naifn painting should signify purity. Original purity. Did the custom officer Rousseau not create in solitude, without any vital reference for this work to painters or trends of his era? To be naif should not, furthermore, imply non-mastery of features, material, or proportions, but to be sure should refer to this authentic purtiy, practically virginal, necessary for the nonpolluted transcription of the interior expressed through a true copy, one that is paradoxically conformist of a vision offered at the primary level, both primitive and elementary, of creation. The non-digestion of the teachings of schools that, in the case of the Haitian naifs, abound around them and from which they have protected themselves. The possible arbitrariness of their free expression.

In order understand Haitian painting, one must know that this country has been an authentic cultural crucible, in which were mixed the Carib Indians, the Spanish invaders, the fearsome Brothers of the Coast, flibustiers, and pirates of all kinds from France, the English and more than 30 African tribes. Also mixed in it were their languages, customs, religions. Also in it fought Napoleon armies with the marooned slaves who then revolted to conquer their independence in 1804. Haiti, the land of mountains in the original Indian language, and of rites, of myths, and rhythms, land of violence, land of Vodou, has always been the land of poets, painters, sculptors, and musicians. The whole of Haitian history displays this unflagging activity, pre-Columbian history reveals the art of the Carib and Taino Indians. The slaves who came from Africa have left us sculpted traces of their cultures. The anonymous creators are without numbers, such as the Vodou priests who decorated their temples with drawings to the glory of their gods. Among them also, the blacksmiths of Vodou, the first in any event to adorn the cemeteries with (drawings) made of metal, without forgetting those ephemeral veves drawn on the ground on the occasion of Vodou ceremonies that were wiped out under the steps of possessed dancers. This continues to our day.

King Henry Christophe encouraged cultural activities since 1807. Two English artists taught at the Royal Academy of Milot. Around 1820, at the invitation of Alexandre Petion, the French artist Barincourt founded a school of art in Port-au-Prince. From 1830 until 1860, we know that about 30 Haitian artists, some of whom were trained in France, worked in Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitian. Between 1850 and 1859, the Emperor Soulouque sustained an academy of painting and drawing. In 1860, President Geffrard founded an academy of painting and sculpture. In 1880, the Haitian artist Archibald Lochard opened an academy of painting and sculpture. In 1915, with Normil Ulysse Charles, he founded a new academy of painting and sculpture. The American artist William Scott encouraged Petion Savain to paint in 1930. In 1943, Dewitt Peters arrived in Haiti and became the prime mover behind the Centre d'Art that was the spark that set the powder off and detonated this formidable explosion of Haitian Art.

Gerald Bloncourt
Art Historian
* Translated by Max Blanchet, Berkeley, CA. -- Courtesy of Studio Wah, Gaithersburg, Maryland