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Haitian art is a complex tradition, reflecting African roots with strong Indigenous American and European aesthetic and religious influences. It is an important representation of Haitian culture and history.
Many artists cluster in ‘schools’ of painting, such as the Cap-Haïtien school, which features depictions of daily life in the city, the Jacmel School, which reflects the steep mountains and bays of that coastal town, or the Saint-Soleil School, which is characterized by abstracted human forms and is heavily influenced by Vodou symbolism.
Centre d’Art d'Haïti
The Centre d’Art d'Haïti, also known as "Naïve Art" or "peinture naïve", was an art movement founded in 1944 by a group of artists which include: Maurice Borno, Andrée Malebranche, Albert Mangonès, Lucien Price, and Georges Remponeau. Popular artists of this movement often were influenced by vaudou and include: André Pierre, Hector Hippolyte, Castera Bazile, Wilson Bigaud and Rigaud Benoit.
Saint Soleil School
Saint Soleil School, also known as "Movement Saint-Soleil" was founded in 1973 as a rural arts community called Soisson-la-Montagne, in Pétion-Ville, Haiti. This community was started by Jean-Claude Garoute and Maud Robart and they encouraged the academic study of painting, as well as maintaining influence by vaudou. Saint Soleil art is characterized by abstract human forms and the heavy influence of vaudou symbolism.
After Saint Soleil School disbanded, five remaining members of the school were renamed "Cinq Soleil" and include: Levoy Exil, Prosper Pierre Louis, Louisiane Saint Fleurant, Dieuseul Paul, Denis Smith.
The style began with Saincilus Ismaël (1940–2000), who was influenced by Byzantine art he had seen in books. Ismaël began to paint in 1956 after visiting the Centre d'Art in Port-au-Prince. His paintings are marked by exquisite detail. Every article of clothing, house, or tree is painted with a different intricate geometric pattern.
Délouis Jean-Louis grew up in Petite Rivière under the influence of Ismaël. Although he worked under Ismaël for 15 years, he never had formal painting lessons. He began painting to make money, but gradually began to paint carefully executed scenes from his imagination.
Alix Dorléus also learned to paint with Ismaël and Mrs. Mellon. He paints all day long and will paint anywhere he feels the spirit to motivate him. His best paintings are detailed depictions, like activity maps, of daily life in the Artibonite Valley.
Ernst Louizor is considered one of the best impressionist painters of Haiti. Louzor was born in Port-au-Prince on October 16, 1938. After high school (Lycee Toussaint L'Ouverture '57) he worked in the tax section of Customs. Louizor's painting career began in 1951 when at the age of 13 he joined the Centre d'Art and studied under Wilmino Domond. He later entered the Académie des Beaux-Arts shortly after its founding in 1959 and furthered his studies with Georges Remponeau. Louzor has many disciples including his wife Gerda Louizor. He has exhibited in Europe and the U.S..
Diaspora outside of Haiti
The market painting
The market painting is a Haitian archetype, originating with Laurent Casimir. It typically depicts a Haitian market and is done in the trademark colors of Casimir red, yellow and orange. The motive is often dense with people. These paintings were mass-produced by Laurent Casimir and his apprentices in the mid-1970s, all signed by Casimir. This archetype is later taken up by contemporary Haitian artist like Jean-Louis, many of which studied under Laurent Casimir.
There is evidence that sculpture from the Tainos in Haiti existed in the Pre-Columbian era and they would create dolls, drawings, signs. It's speculated by researchers that these sculptures may have been representing their deities (maybe the ancestors of the vèvè in vaudou).
Contemporary Haitian sculpture is made of natural materials, traditional art mediums, and recycled materials.
"Haitian Steel Drum Sculpture" – The village of Noailles in Croix-des-Bouquets is home to over a dozen artisan workshops producing countless pieces for over two decades. The work is created out of recycled oil drums. In August 2011, the Clinton Global Initiative along with Greif Inc., donated 40 tons of scrap metal to the artists in Croix-des-Bouquets. After the earthquake in 2010, artists had a difficult time finding material to work from. According to Deputy Jean Tholbert Alexis, 8,000 people in the area are directly or indirectly benefit from the villages' artisans.
The tradition of making flags (drapo servis) to decorate Vodou places of worship is a distinctive form of Haitian Vodou art. Flags most often commemorate specific spirits or saints, but the 2010 earthquake has become a common subject of art flags. The use of sequins in these flags became prevalent in the 1940s, and many of today's flags cover the entire flag in colored sequins and beads. These flags are traded as art by dealers around the world.
2010 Haiti earthquake
On January 12, 2010 a devastating earthquake struck Port-au-Prince and its surrounding area and resulted in mass devastation. The Haitian art world suffered great losses in the earthquake. Museums and art galleries were extensively damaged, among them Port-au-Prince's main art museum, Centre d'Art, where many art works were destroyed. The collection at Collège Saint Pierre also was devastated, as was the collection of priceless murals in the Holy Trinity Cathedral. Some private art galleries were also severely damaged, including the Monnin Gallery in Pétion-Ville, and the Nader Art Gallery and Musée Nader in Port-au-Prince. The personal collection of Georges Nader Sr., the Nader collection was worth an estimated US$30-US$100 million. Shortly after the earthquake struck, UNESCO assigned special envoy Bernard Hadjadj to evaluate damage to artwork. The Smithsonian Institution, led by Under Secretary Richard Kurin, and with the assistance of the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince and the Government of Haiti among others, embarked on a multiyear project and survey to help restore key Haitian cultural treasures and train local Haitians on art preservation and recovery techniques.
- Benson, LeGrace (2016). "Malebranche, Andrée (1916–2013)". In Knight, Franklin W.; Gates, Jr, Henry Louis (eds.). Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro–Latin American Biography. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-199-93580-2. – via Oxford University Press's Reference Online (subscription required)
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