Tag Archives: realism

The Turning Point in Jamaican Art

 

Albert Huie - the counting lesson - 1938

‘The Counting  Lesson’ (1938), oil painting by Albert Huie

The representation of blacks as subjects in Jamaican art remained almost absent until Albert Huie (1920-2010) entered the art scene. Huie was artistically formed in an era where Ethiopianism, Rastafarianism, Garveyism, and cultural nationalism transformed the island’s social and political landscape. He incorporated the collective ideas of these movements about a black African consciousness and a black Jamaican culture in his works.


By Jorge Cuartas

In early Jamaican art, black inhabitants played a marginal role; they were portrayed as part of the scenery. This image was replaced in the late nineteenth century by the ‘market woman’, a stereotype introduced on postcards, photographs and advertisements as part of the first efforts to promote Jamaica as a tourist winter resort. Although represented in the foreground, the market woman is characterized as primitive, backward, childlike, barefooted, picturesque, tropical, and full of queer superstitions.

Albert Huie’s The Counting Lesson (1938) represents an important turning point in Jamaican art. In it a black young girl is the central point. The girl, looking intently at what is in front of her, is counting. She wears a polka dot dress, her hair is neatly coifed with a red bow, and the finger poised in midair stresses her mental calculations. All elements of the painting point to the girl’s education, respectability, and civility.

On its surface the work is fairly unremarkable. However, in the Jamaican context of the 1930s, the painting changes the focus of black people as subjects in art. No longer are they part of the scenery, or used to emphasize stereotypes, but now they are the central focus of the painting. By fitting the girl into the frame of art, Huie allowed black viewers to attribute to themselves the signs of distinction, prestige, and self-hood formerly reserved for the white colonial elite.

Today, Albert Huie is locally and internationally acclaimed as a key figure in Jamaican art and remembered as ‘The Father of Jamaican painting’, but in many ways it is ‘The Counting Lesson’ that set him apart from others. The painting can be seen at National Gallery of Jamaica, where it is on permanent display.

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Complex and Intuitive Voodoo Symbols

Hector Hyppolite (1894-1948) is a legendary artist of Haiti, known for his complex, intuitive paintings. He used chicken feathers, his fingers and brushes to create his master pieces, which have a free and bold style. He did most of his work during the last three years of his live, where at the Centre D’Art in Port-au-Prince he produced between 250 and 600 paintings. Only about 100 of these have been located today.

Hector Hyppolite - The Siren  - 1946, American Folk art, Milwaukee Museum of Art, Milwaukee, Wisconsin‘The Siren’ by Hector Hyppolite, Milwaukee Museum of Art

Being a third generation Voodoo priest, most of his paintings depict his religious convictions. He shows us voodoo gods that are crude and ugly and combines these with a warm palette that add to the expressive powers of his images. His heroes are reincarnations of Voodoo spirits (Loas); his empty backgrounds symbolize the beyond; his flowers are metaphors of perpetual life; his birds refer to the supernatural world; and the hypnotic eyes of his subjects evoke the serpent eyes of Damballah.

Maitresse Erzuline by Hector Hyppolite‘Maitresse Erzulie’ by Hector Hyppolite

He is collected and has been exhibited around the world, including the Musee d’Art Haitien du College Saint Pierre in Port-au-Prince, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Smithsonian Institution, the Milwaukee Museum of Art, and the Museum of Everything in London.

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The Imaginary World of Jorge Severino

Jorge Severino - Debut en sociedad di mi prima Cleotilde. Oil and acrylic on linen.

When he started exhibiting his paintings in the mid-sixties, Jorge Severino from the Dominican Republic didn’t have a clue to what he was doing. Reviewing Severino’s first exhibition in 1966, art critic Contín Aybar commented that “the ten paintings could easily have been created by six different artists. There is no common style in them”. So when Severino sold his first painting for $75, he was astonished that people would even pay for his work. Nowadays his paintings are hard to come by and cost $12,500 or more.


By Jorge Cuartas

Severino came to his own when he started painting black woman in luxury dresses. Using mostly a combination of oil and acrylics and never an easel, these black society women are decorated with over the top jewelry, silk dresses and red flowers. They stare defiantly at their observers.

Jorge Severino - 'Tía Gertrudis que era amante de Toulouse, haciendo antesala en el Moulin Rouge'. Oil and arylics on linen.

Severino is a representative of the magical realism movement, to which Gabriel García Márquez also belonged. His paintings are based on an imaginary photo album found in the attic with written indications in the margins about the Tia Clotilde in Paris, and the Tio Roque at the Prado Museum in Madrid. Severino uses this family to mock the megalomaniac fantasies of middle and upper classes of the Caribbean.

Jorge Severino 'Prima Johanna posando para Hector Baez'. Oil and acrylics on linen

His brilliance not only lies in transforming the perception of black women’s reality, but also in adding surrealistic elements to his paintings. Look for floating keys, football goal posts, or red fishes swimming in the air as part of his decorations.

Jorge Severino’s paintings have been shown in Europe, Latin America and the United States. He has won several international prizes for his paintings and is considered one of the Master Artists of the Dominican Republic.

Paintings used in this article:

  1. ‘Debut en sociedad di mi prima Cleotilde’, Jorge Severino. Oil and acrylic on linen.
  2. ‘Do you like Klimt’, Jorge Severino. Silkscreen.
  3. ‘Morena’, Jorge Severino.
  4. ‘Tía Gertrudis que era amante de Toulouse, haciendo antesala en el Moulin Rouge’, Jorge Severino. Oil and arylics on linen
  5. ‘Prima Johanna posando para Hector Baez’ by Jorge Severino. Oil and acrylics on linen.
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The Joy of Vibrant Colors

Esther Griffith really likes her colors. Using layer upon layer of paint she creates rich, deep, vibrant and expressive colors. Greens and reds are her favorites. “I enjoy using oils”, says Griffith. “They create beautiful, unexpected effects.”

She was born and lives in Trinidad, where she studied Visual Arts at the University of West Indies at St. Augustine. Most of her paintings are portraits, which she shows like masks, resulting in a delightful contrast of hyper realism and abstraction. “I love experimenting with color, form and texture to produce unique effects”, says Griffith. “My paintings are inspired by the vivid features of nature, the earth and its surface.”

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Augusto Marín: versatile Puertorican Artist

Augusto Marín (1921-2011) was a painter, draftsman, print maker, muralist, sculptor, stained-glass artist, and teacher. He covered expressionism, cubism and social-realism in his paintings. He is best described as a versatile contemporary artist.

Marín participated in the ‘Artistic Generation of the 1950s‘, a populist visual arts movement whose goal was to create images that affirmed the Puertorican identity.

His murals can be seen around Puerto Rico, for example at the Department of Housing building and the Fine Arts Center. His work can also be admired in several museums, including the Centro de Bellas Artes in Puerto Rico; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Puerto Rico; and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

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Juicy Fruit

Francisco Oller - Higueras ca 1912

Franciso Oller (1833-1917) painted fruit like no one before him. The tone, composition or even the subjects of his still lives were nothing like the the bodegones of his time. No delicacy, no austerity, no pantry items, sometimes not even a slab, in fact to the Europeans buying the paintings very little was recognizable.


By Jorge Cuartas

Francisco Oller - Still life with Coconut Puerto Rico about 1893

Oller used his whole canvas to showcase local, exotic fruit to the maximum. His coconuts look like enormous, dangerous nuts; his soursops and pineapples look like they are alive and almost ready to pop off the canvas. There may have been nothing recognizable in the painting, but they sure captured the buyer’s fancies.

Francisco Oller - Bodegon Guanabanas

Francisco Oller - Pineapples ca 1912-1914

The importance of Fancisco Oller’s still lives are twofold. First of all it shows us how buyers of paintings at the end of the Spanish era viewed the Americas: it was still an exotic and unknown territory. But more important is that with his fruit impressions Oller captured the reality of Puerto Rican life and its tropical aspects. His realism set the standard for many painters who soon followed his style.

Francisco Oller - Plátanos Amarillos 1892-93 nr 2

Paintings used in this article:

  1. ‘Higueras’ (ca 1912), Francisco Oller, oil on wood panel.
  2. Naturaleza Muerta con Cocos‘ (ca 1893, Francisco Oller, oil on canvas.
  3. ‘Bodegón con Guanábanas’ (ca 1891), Francisco Oller, oil on linen
  4. ‘Bodegón con Piñas’ (ca 1912-1914), Francisco Oller.
  5. ‘Plátanos Amarillos’ (ca 1893), Francisco Oller, oil on wood panel.
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The Color of Social Injustice

Le depart pour le Travail - Jean Francois Millet 1851 2

Comparing Millet’s and Brintle’s ‘Le Départ pour le Travail’

Back in the 19th century, the French painter Jean-François Millet (1814 – 1875), moved by the social injustice in his country, shifted the focus in his paintings from the rich and prominent to those at the bottom of the social ladder. Millet was a Realist and one of the founders of the Barbizon School.


By Jorge Cuartas

‘Le Départ pour le Travail (1851-1853)’ is one of his paintings of peasants that captures the poverty of rural French life. In it, he hides the faces of the agricultural laborers to emphasize their anonymity and marginalized position.

About 150 years later Haitian Patricia Brintle paints her own ‘Le Départ pour le Travail’. She uses Millet’s orientation and composition, but at the same time emphasizes the poverty of her subjects less by using bright colors and by replacing the rake of the male worker by a guitar.

Le depart pour le Travail - Patricia Brintle

Ms. Brintle is a self-taught painter who favors the use of acrylic. Her paintings are bright, vivid and vibrant. Born and raised in Haiti, she immigrated to the United States in 1964. In her work she uses symbolic elements to bridge the gap between Haitian islanders and the Haitian Diaspora.

Paintings used in this article:

  1. ‘Le Départ pour le Travail’, Jean-François Millet, oil on canvas
  2. ‘Le Départ pour le Travail, after Jean-François Millet’, Patricia Brintle, acrylic on canvas

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Aruban painter Elvis Tromp speaks with colors #CaribbeanPainters

Haciendo Redo - Elvis Tromp

Elvis Tromp is an Aruban painter who speaks with colors. Using oil or acrylic he has painted several Aruban landscapes since he was a child, but lately he has expanded into figurative and abstract art.

Haciendo Redo’ shows three women sitting down to gossip. Set against a powerful yellow background the painting captures a very recognizable activity around the Caribbean.

Tromp, who has led the art movement on his island for decades has an active page  on Facebook, showing his latest works.

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