Hugh Stollmeyer (13 January 1912 – 12 June 1982) was an artist from Trinidad.
Hugh Stollmeyer with wall painting
|Born||13 January 1912
|Died||12 June 1982
|Education||Art Student's League in New York, U.S.A|
|Known for||Painting, poetry|
Early life and the Trinidad Independents
Hugh Stollmeyer was born in Trinidad, the southernmost island in the Caribbean, on January 13, 1912. The influence of his idyllic early years in this lush tropical paradise is apparent in his art, both in his use of vibrant colors and in his portrayal of island people. Hugh was an artistic child; always painting, reading, drawing and writing poetry and plays. When he finished school he joined the "Trinidad Independent", a group of creative thinkers who questioned the social and artistic "norm" of the day and whose interests included: the abolishment of class divisions, capitalism, racism, religious extremism and prejudice against homosexuality. A consciousness of Trinidad's cultural heritage was visible for the first time in the artwork of Hugh and the Trinidad Independents; the influences of Amerindian iconography and the symbols of African Obeah are two such examples. Stollmeyer exhibited his work with others from the Independents in Trinidad and abroad; among them was Amy Leong Pang, with whom he developed an especially close working relationship.
Collectively, the Independents published a magazine called The Beacon as a means to manifest their collective desire to make the nation of Trinidad a vital intellectual center where new ideas could be tested and new avenues of racial and political justice could be discussed in the Caribbean The magazine included articles on politics, sociology and philosophy, as well as reviews of book and art exhibitions, original poetry and short stories. Hugh wrote articles on art, art restoration and reviews of art exhibitions, as well as poetry.
Hugh left Trinidad for New York City in the summer of 1930 and lived with his older brothers who were already working and studying there. Hugh apprenticed at a photographic advertising company, and attended classes at the Art Students league. He continued his correspondence with the Trinidad Independents and wrote for the Beacon. In 1933 he moved back to Trinidad. Hugh continued exhibiting his work locally and abroad and was active in the Trinidad art scene. By 1938, Hugh was increasingly uncomfortable within the confines of Trinidad society, and he returned to New York City. The work from the late 1930s, particularly after his return to New York, marks the beginning of his artistic maturity. His work captures the character and mixed ethnicity of the Trinidad people as well as the vibrant color and the lush and varied forms of tropical foliage.
He was very active in the Greenwich Village creative community and spent much time frequenting the galleries, critiquing and learning from others art. While his subject matter and palette continued to reflect both Trinidad's culture, people and tropical foliage as well as the influence of artists such as Botticelli, Gauguin, Matisse, Van Gogh, and Picasso, his style increasingly reflected his knowledge and understanding of avant garde painting in New York City at that time.
In the mid 1950s, Hugh and his friend Arthur Repkin moved to the countryside north of New York City. Hugh planted extensive gardens here and both the flowers and vegetables he grew became the subjects for his painting. He was also vitally interested in abstract painting, but not the action‚ painting of the abstract expressionists for which he had little sympathy. Much of his abstract work is on an intimate scale in gouache and reflects his continuing interest in surrealism as well as in clear and vibrant color, and in the juxtaposition of mass rather than line.
By 1959 Hugh's relationship with Repkin was disintegrating and he returned to New York City briefly and then to Trinidad where he lived for the major part of each year until 1964. He immediately immersed himself in the artistic life of the island and exhibited frequently. This was a very productive period, marked by his return to painting Trinidad women, in all their diversity, surrounded by the lush vibrant color of tropical flowers and foliage. There is a new, almost ecstatic freedom in the design of these works which conveys his love for tropical people and tropical plants.
Hugh's productivity and involvement in the art scene was counterbalanced by bouts of depression which he had suffered throughout his life. At this time the depression was accompanied by increasingly heavy drinking and this began to take its toll. After he returned to New York City in 1964, he found it increasingly difficult to paint and stopped painting seriously in 1965.
In 1966 he was asked to design the curtain for the stage at the Trinidad and Tobago Pavilion at Expo '67 in Montreal. He was both gratified and perplexed to be asked. He was an enthusiastic supporter of Trinidad independence (in 1962), but was also quite aware of his status as an "old colonial". This may have been his last work.
In 1967 he went to work at the Elmhurst Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, in the physiotherapy department. He viewed his work there as a kind of performance, healing through love and laughter as well as physiotherapy. He found the constant contact with people invigorating after the solitary pursuit of painting.
In 1971 he left the hospital, hoping to return to painting but found that he could not. His previous work, however, was taken up by the Ligoa Duncan Gallery in Uptown Manhattan and he had exhibitions there and at their gallery in Paris.
Hugh Stollmeyer was one of Trinidad's great painters. His work was very influential towards the Caribbean art movement. Many of his paintings have been published by Fine Island Arts Inc., a publishing, marketing and distribution company established by a relative in 2006.
- Art History
- Rosengarten, Frank. Urbane Revolutionary: C. L. R. James and the Struggle for a New Society.
- Black, Jan Knippers. Area Handbook for Trinidad and Tobago