Boscoe Holder (16 July 1921 – 21 April 2007), born Arthur Aldwyn Holder in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, of partly Barbadian stock, was Trinidad and Tobago's leading contemporary painter, who also had a celebrated international career spanning six decades as a designer and visual artist, dancer, choreographer and musician. In 1948 he married the dancer Sheila Davis Clarke, daughter of radio personality Kathleen Davis (a.k.a. "Aunty Kay"), and their son Christian was born the following year. (Christian Holder eventually became a leading dancer with the Joffrey Ballet.) Living in London, England, during the 1950s and 1960s, he performed on British television and radio, in variety and nightclubs, in films, and in the West End. His company also danced for Queen Elizabeth II at her coronation in 1953, and, in two years later, at Windsor Castle.
Born in Trinidad to Louise de Frense and Arthur Holder from Barbados, Boscoe Holder was the eldest of five children. He attended Tranquility Intermediate School and Queen's Royal College. He started a musical career at a young age, playing the piano professionally for rich French creole, Portuguese and Chinese families. In his teens he began painting seriously. He was an early member of the Trinidad Art Society, along with people such as Ivy Hochoy, Hugh Stollmeyer and Amy Leon Pang. Holder also formed his own dance company, the Holder Dance Company. His style carefully preserved Afro-Caribbean tradition. His paintings and dances were inspired by the shango, bongo and bélé dances, of the slaves. Boscoe's younger brother, actor Geoffrey Holder - perhaps best known for his role as the villain Baron Samedi in the 1973 James Bond film Live and Let Die - joined Boscoe's dance company at the age of seven.
In 1950 Boscoe with his wife and son went to live in London as a dancer and performer appearing at well-known theatres. He formed a group by the name of Boscoe Holder and his Caribbean Dancers, who toured all over Europe and further afield (Finland, Sweden, Belgium, France, Spain, former Czechoslovakia, Italy, Monte Carlo and Egypt). The company performed at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, representing the West Indies. In the 1950s Holder produced, choreographed and costumed the floorshow in the Candlelight Room of The May Fair hotel, where he also formed and led his own band, The Pinkerton Boys, who alternated there with Harry Roy's orchestra. He co-owned a private club called the Hay Hill in Mayfair. Holder and his family were based in London for 20 years. He danced in Nice, Monte Carlo, and Paris with Josephine Baker. He also continued to paint and his work was exhibited at various UK galleries including the Trafford Gallery, the Redfern Gallery, the Commonwealth Institute, the Castle Museum Nottingham, the Martell exhibition of Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture at the Royal Watercolour Society Galleries, and the Leicester Gallery.
In the late 1960s he returned to Trinidad and quickly re-established himself as a painter. Since that time his work has been exhibited all over the Caribbean and elsewhere internationally. His paintings can be seen in collections throughout the world, preserving the West Indian culture. In 1981, a Holder painting was presented by the then President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Sir Ellis Clarke, as a wedding gift from the nation to Prince Charles and Lady Diana.
In October 2011, an exhibition of 50 of Boscoe Holder's artworks was dedicated at the Upper Room Art Gallery at Top of the Mount, Mount St Benedict, St Augustine, Trinidad, as the Gallery's contribution to the United Nations proclaiming 2011 as the International Year for People of African Descent.
Awards and honours
In 1973, in recognition of Boscoe Holder's contribution to the Arts, the government of Trinidad and Tobago awarded him the Hummingbird Medal (gold) and named a street after him.
On 31 October 2003, he was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt) by the University of the West Indies.
In December 2004 the government of Trinidad and Tobago issued an official Christmas series of postage stamps featuring six of his paintings.
- Obituary by Christian Holder, The Stage, 1 June 2007.
- Boscoe Holder chronology at The Upper Room Art Gallery website.
- "Boscoe, holder of one more award", by Raymond Ramcharitar.
- Geoffrey Holder biography at IMDB.
- Campbell's of London website.
- Aliyyah Eniath, "A Tribute To Boscoe Holder - Rare Glimpses Of His Life Through The Eyes Of His Beloved". Caribbean Belle, 2012.
- "Discovering the Art of Boscoe Holder", Trinidad Express Newspapers, 15 October 2011.
- Boscoe Holder by Geoffrey MacLean, introduction by Geoffrey Holder (Trinidad, 1994).
- The Art Society of Trinidad and Tobago.
- Boscoe Holder chronology and The Upper Room Art Gallery.
- IMDb entry, including credits from three episodes of the Danger Man (US: Secret Agent) TV series.
- Obituary by Stephen Bourne, The Independent, 23 April 2007.
- Obituary by John Cowley, The Guardian, 2 May 2007.