Haitian arts are the soul of Haiti, for both beauty and ugliness can be reflected in one painting. Haitian paintings define the cultural creativity and a struggle to survive with the pride and joy of the Haitian people. It is also a source that brings to life some of the past as well as contemporary problems of the country. This is all done through the vivid pictures and images of Haitian Art. Usually, Haitian people do not talk about environmental problems, political and economic issues are usually more pressings than anything else. With an ecological disaster at hand, it is pertinent for Haitian artists through their paintings, to foster environmental awareness and to educate the masses.
The Arts: Naives and Moderns
Haitian paintings is generally divided into two categories: naives and moderns. This division has been widely accepted in Haitian arts. Why the distinction? The naive painters are known as primitives, and it's been said that their style lacks artistic education and discipline. The modern painters have come to view the term "naif" as a negative connotation on the evolution of Haitian paintings. However, the term naive has more to do with independence from academic tradition, and it is a style that suggested artistic innocence. When in 1978 more than one-hundred works of Haitian art were put on exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, the moderns and collectors were quick to note the exhibition had focused too much on untrained artists and "their traditional depictions of voodoo or simple village and market scenes, rendered in vivid colors. They argued that by omitting more experimental pieces, the show fostered a stereotype of Haitian art as primitive and naive". This division has not subsided, despite some changes, such as moving beyond the traditional colors and themes.
Who are the moderns? They are painters with artistic education. They are artists who have been educated, trained, and learned from other masters on how to refine their crafts. From the history of Haitian arts, what is termed moderns today, dominated the early beginning of the country's artistic life. That is because most of those artists, some even learned their crafts abroad, were molded in the French tradition. However, Harriet W. Lesser, Curator of Exhibits at the Charles Summer School Museum and Archives in Washington, D.C., pointed out that although there is the European influence in those that went abroad, "the Haitian elements are also visible". Today, modernism transcends into vivid colours, renowned artistic styles such as surrealism, pointilism, and impressionism. For obvious reasons, these styles are a vast departure from the naives. The moderns could be termed as the classically trained artists who have been thought, molded, and shaped in certain schools of painting, while the naives looks to be creative and inventive. This takes nothing away from the moderns, who have featured the familiar subjects of Haitian arts. That is the landscapes, the people, and the culture.
The work of the naives derived from an ingenuous blend of reality with heroic imagination. It is this blend, which has attracted acclamation for Haitian arts. The power of expression derived from the painters, and with the stroke of their brushes. Art Historian, Gerarld Bloncourt, wrote, "naif painting should signify purity. Original purity." It should not be reflected upon as a mark that the painter had no discipline or knowledge governing perspective and composition. Should a genius such as Obin, who has contributed much to Haitian arts, be judged any differently because he was a naive? To do so is tantamount to berating Shakespeare inspite of his greatness for not writing his works in modern day english. Bloncourt wrote that "To be 'naif'should not, furthermore, imply non-mastery of features, material, or proportions,but to be sure should refer to this authentic purity, practically virginal,necessary for the nonpolluted transcription of the 'interior me'".
Sense of Joy
One of the components of Haitian paintings is the joy that is depicted. This is a great paradox. Despite the misery and poverty, Haitian artists seemed to constantly find a way to include the joyfulness of the people in their artistic presentation. Much of the credit for this genre goes to Montas Antoine who revolutionized the idea that joy was to be an essential part of the development of the artists. His Street with Flowers typified that essence with "The joy of natural beauty! The joy of art!" The unique approach of celebrating beauty in color and with a brush became a popular trend among the artists. Even Hyppolite, who was much more focused on celebrating dreams and legends of the voodoo, found time to paint "still life" and tributes to Haitian women. In the later generation of artists, great artists such as Prosper Pierre Louis, Levoy Exil, and Louisiane St. Fleurant, would express joy in their painting by celebrating the spirits as symbols of joy.
One reason for the expression of joy in Haitian paintings, despite so much misery in the country, is the fact that there is always a "joie de vivre". The average Haitian, no matter what, will find satisfaction with the little he/she may possess. Secondly, a drive and a pride to find satisfaction no matter the circumstances. Some of this conviction, rightly or wrongly, goes back to the long rebellion against colonization and slavery and culminating with independence in 1804, which was achieved with incredible suffering and great resiliency. Third, the color division and a chaotic political culture have forced some to shun politics, and withdraw from their civic duties to find another satisfaction in their daily lives. Thus the painters, and in some aspect as well as the Haitian musicians, are the ambassadors of the people, and exhibited that same joy in and through their artistic creations.
Historicism is another main aspect of Haitian art. This feature became a fact after the art passed on from the French oriented academy to the people. Two aspects of this art emerged: (1) a sense of history of the past dealing with fantasy and comedy; (2) the importance of incorporating contemporary history in the art. In the first case, the paintings may draw from a historical event, or an individual. At the heart of such paintings are legends, and folklore myths created by the artists. The second case strictly deals with current events, but from a historical perspective. The artists will either paint from memory or from the observation of the present.
Diedonne Cedor and Pierre Augustin, and Obin as well, have been given credit for this development. Cedor introduced this feature in Haitian paintings with the Ceremony at Bois Caiman, 1791. The ceremony at Bois Caiman is a historical fact and the painting adds to the legend that grew out of that historical events. Cedor's work showed a band of slaves lead by Boukman, a hougan, and a name that remained synonymous in Haitian history, drinking the blood of a sacrificed pig. This ritual became one of the defining moment that led the slaves to revolt against French planters in the region.
In a historical sense, some paintings are reflective of past events, and contemporary happenings, but without much fanfare. These paintings deal with realism. For example, Philome Obin, who witnessed the American occupation, years later would paint what he witnessed. Some of his work depicted skirmishes, and the struggle between the local guerillas (the Cacos) and the American Marines. One of his paintings depicted Franklin D. Roosevelt on a battleship lifting the marine occupation. In one of his masterpieces, Obin paid tribute to Charlemagne Peralte, the leader of the resistance movement, by painting his funeral in the street of Cap-Haitien. The work of Enguerrand Gourgue and Celestin Faustin dealt symbolically with events in the political arena. However, under the Duvalier regime, contemporary work did not symbolically deal with the corruption or the barbaric nature of the Duvalier regime. This was born out of fear of retribution from the regime.
Discourse and Status: Agreement and Allege
The importance of Haitian art includes the wealth of treasure that Haitian painters have produced throughout the last half of the century. Accordingly, this has elevated the Haitian artists to greater prominence. Some of the painters have had their work featured abroad in some of the most prestigious museums and art galleries in the world, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The paintings of Michel Valestin are one such example and because of the content and subject matter they are celebrated by European and North American galleries and collectors. Other well-known artists such as Philome Obin, Gerald Bloncourt, Gesner Armand, Jean Pierre Theard, Ronald Mevs, Valestin as well as other young painters of the new generation such as Rodrigue Constant, Alain Camille and Serge Auguste, have profited from the exposure of their creations. However, the same cannot be said for the little known artists who are yet to reach international acclaims.
While most countries have copyright laws that protect their artists and ensure that they are rewarded for their creations, this is not the case in Haiti. Article 38 of the Haitian Constitution recognizes that artistic property are protected by the law. However, the copyrights and inventions are only protected as long as they are filed with the Ministry of Interior and National Defense. Effective enforcement of this law means official registration of every single art work produced on the streets of Haiti. Unfortunately this is almost an impossibility, thus the little known artist's work can be sold in the streets on Port-au-Prince and then reproduced and featured for nothing.
The art market in Haiti, as elsewhere has two major components: the primary market and the secondary market. The artists profited from the primary market because of their participation, involvement in the selling and distribution of the products. The secondary market is depended on the major transactions which involved resale and auction houses. The secondary market is problematic for the Haitian artists. The most renowned artists may profit by virtue of the works going to major art collectors, and being exhibited in art galleries and museums. However, given that the streets of Port-au-Prince is a secondary market, the work of the well-known artists can be reproduced and sold, this constitute a major problem. With no enforcement mechanism of copyright laws, the original artist is not compensated, whether or not the street vendor or other less talented street artists benefit from an increase in the works' value.
Haiti needs to establish legal mechanism with regard to the art industry as well as to demand cooperation from foreign countries that are ultimately displaying or reselling the art of Haiti. The nature of Haitian art is common, it expresses the culture of Haiti, in that way many of the painting and sculpture are indistinguishable from one another which may leads to problems identifying the artists. Nevertheless, the country needs to be more proactive in protecting the rights of all its artists.
Haiti's obligation derived vis-a-vis its membership at the World Trade Organization, and under the agreements of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). One of the main features of the recent TRIPS Agreement is the issue of enforcement. This requires members of the WTO and signatory to the Berne Convention to complied with the enforcement mechanism as set forth in the recent agreement. In the case of Haiti, as signatory to the Berne Convention, it has an obligation to enforce adequate standard of copyrights protection. This means that Haiti would have to enforce a process that creates deterrence on infringing on intellectual property rights. To create deterrence there must be laws on the books that are enforceable and there must remedies for the violations of existing copyrights laws.
Extracted from American University
Haitian art is a complex tradition, reflecting African roots with strong Indigenous American and European æsthetic 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.
Saint Soleil school
- Levoy Exil
- Prosper Pierre Louis
- Louisiane Saint Fleurant
- Dieuseul Paul
- Denis Smith
A second generation member is Magda Magloire, the daughter of Louisianne Saint Fleurant.
The painters of the Artibonite region in central Haiti, where Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti is located, have developed their own style, which is quite recognizable.
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.
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 (Geo) Remponeau. Louizor has many disciples including his wife Gerda Louizor. He has exhibited in Europe and the U.S..
Extracted from Wikipedia and the American University