Haiti and Art

The History Of Haitian Art

Many historians date the beginning of Haitian art with the opening of the Centre D'Art in Port-au-Prince, by DeWitt Peters in 1944. However, artistic activity has always held a place in Haitian history. As early as 1807 Henri Christophe encouraged the development of art in the new independent black country. In 1816, Alexandre Petion helped a french artist to establish an art school in Port-au-Prince. Although some smaller schools arose during those early years, the emphasis of the art was on religion and portraiture.

When DeWitt Peters opened the Centre D'Art, and uncovered a wealth of talent that would forever affect the history of the art in Haiti. The first painter to gain recognition was Hector Hyppolite. He was a voodoo priest whose innate ability made him one of the greatest natural painters of modern times. Those early painters, known as the first generation of artists, included the now popular, Philome Obin, Rigaud Benoit, Castera Bazile and Wilson Bigaud. These men were completely artistically untrained. They came to their canvasses as bookkeepers, truck drivers, and houseboys. Their subjects were most often what they perceived in their everyday mundane existence and what they learned from their religion, voodoo Although they came from simple backgrounds, their paintings were full of passion and color. They managed to integrate what they saw, felt and believed and express it with intensity of emotion and innocence. These men had no formal education, no visual training and basically developed their styles in isolation from the rest of the art world.

The first generation inspired a second generation of painters. These new painters had the good fortune to benefit from the numerous art schools that developed in Port au Prince and Cap Haitien. As the art world discovered the wonders of the naive Haitian art and the artists were exposed to different artistic styles, each generation of Haitian artist become more sophisticated and trained. Some of the third and fourth generation of artists still use what is known as the naive or primitive original style in their works, while others employ new materials and styles.

Whichever their choice of style, the Haitian artist will always represent a folk art expression of spontaneity and simplicity.

Taino Art

The Taino Indians were the dominant culture in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica and the Bahamas during the Pre Columbian era (from about 1200 AD to the arrival of Columbus in 1492).

They were a very creative people expressing themselves through their art, jewelry, sculpture, dance, music and poetry. Today evidence of their culture is seen in words we use from their language such as: barbeque, canoe, hammock and hurricane! They were also a spiritual people. They believed that a supernatural being created the world and that all things, such as rain, fertility, wind etc., were attributed to spirits that controlled them. Each of these spirits were represented by a figure and these figures can be seen etched on walls of caves or carved out of stone. The turtle is a very significant figure for the Taino because it represents their ancestral mother; therefore, you will see many turtle figures in their artwork. Taino artwork is varied and includes finely detailed and polished sculptures carved in wood, ornaments made from shell and bone, and ceramics that are decorated with animals, birds and intricate geometric designs.

The pieces that we’ve chosen take from the ancient Taino in that they reflect the symbols and designs of the culture. The paintings are rich in texture and color. The naive nature reflects an innocence and a longing to connect with the spiritual world. The artists use a variety of mediums in their work. First the canvas is prepared and painted. A burlap type material is then glued onto this surface. Finally an epoxy is used to cover the entire piece. The canvases offer depth and dimension as well as a simplicity that reflects life.

What is a Giclee?

Giclee is considered the best technique for reproducing original works of art. It is recognized by art collectors and museums as an affordable, collectible piece of fine art.

Giclee (zhee-klay) - is a French phrase coined in the 17th Century meaning to spray or squirt. The term is currently used to describe the latest form of high quality art print production. Giclee pieces are not one-of-a-kinds, they are one of a limited edition series, similar to serigraphs or lithographs.

An original image is scanned or rendered digitally. Artists or specially trained printers work with the image on the computer screen to get it as accurate as possible. A fine stream of archival quality inks are then sprayed onto archival art paper or canvas using a highly advanced print head. The effect is similar to an air brush technique, but much finer.

This process was originally developed as a proofing system for lithograph printing presses, but it became apparent that the presses were having a hard time matching the quality and color of the giclee proofs. Lithography uses tiny dots of four colors to fool the eye into seeing various hues and shades. Colors are "created" by printing different size dots of these four colors. Giclees use ink jet technology, but far more sophisticated than your desktop printer. The process employs eight to twelve colors of lightfast inks and finer, more numerous, and replaceable printheads resulting in a wider color gamut, and the ability to use various media to print on. The ink is sprayed onto the page, actually mixing the inks on the page to create true colors. These modern printers are capable of producing incredibly detailed prints for both the fine art and photographic markets.

This medium offers many choices for the artist and the collector. Some artists choose their "preferred size" and produce the work at a singe size. Other artists choose to scale the work and offer it in a variety of sizes. Some artists will "crop" an image to allow a greater variety of re-sizing.

Canvas is often the surface of choice for fine art because it provides a texture close to the original. The resulting work is an amazingly smooth and consistent image. Giclees on canvas should be framed without glass. Giclees on canvas usually include a small border to allow for wrapping around stretchers.

Fine art watercolor paper is also used. This medium creates a very different look. The image is usually floated in the paper with a white edge around it, that becomes part of the visual image. The overall effect is more like a lithograph and should be matted and framed behind glass.

Giclee prints can be found in the following collections:

  • The Louvre Museum in Paris
  • The Smithsonian
  • The British Museum
  • The Washington Post collection
  • The New York Public Library
  • The Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • The New York Metropolitan Museum
  • The National Art Museum
  • The San Francisco Museum of Art
  • The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art