At his death in 1948, Hyppolite was recognized as Haiti’s foremost painter. By 1946, both André Breton and Wilfredo Lam were purchasing his work and hailing him as a master of naïve art. UNESCO’s 1947 exhibition in Paris gave Hyppolite a worldwide reputation. Born into a family of voodoo priests, Hyppolite did not start to paint until late in his life. During World War I, Hyppolite traveled to New York, Cuba, Dahomey, and Ethiopia before returning to the city of St. Mark in 1920. Although by trade a shoemaker, house painter, and sometimes voodoo priest, Hyppolite painted postcards for American marines visiting Haiti. His painted architectural decorations in St. Mark brought him to the attention of DeWitt Peters, founder, and Director of the Centre D’Art. With DeWitt’s encouragement, Hyppolite moved to Port-au-Prince and devoted himself to painting. Using chicken feathers and his fingers as well as brushes, Hyppolite produced a body of work of remarkable richness and complexity. His works are collected and exhibited in major museums throughout the world. In 2008, the Government of Haiti issued a decree establishing June 2008- June 2009 as the year of Hector Hyppolite as a testimony to the impact he has had on the art world. The Musée du Louvre in Paris held an exhibit from November 5th, 2011 through February 6th, 2012. It published an accompanying book on the life and art of Hector Hyppolite, one of Haiti’s greatest artists, the patriarch of Haitian art. The proceeds from the sale of the book will be used to fund the restoration of the collection of the Musée d’Art Haitien du College St. Pierre in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. A legend in his country, Hyppolite is known for his aesthetically complex yet highly intuitive paintings. He died in 1948, at the peak of his fame, leaving a legacy that has inspired a whole school of Haitian painting.
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