new–to–Haitian art eyes, in 1972, the galleries seemed to hold a lot of
paintings similar to this one — market and other crowd scenes. The
best–known 'crowd artist' is
the many also–rans, Felix Jean ranks near the top; others who work in
the genre include Ronald Aly, René Haspil, Menes Fils–Aimé,
Jean Pierre, and Piracasso (who is also very good).
Jean also does village, market, historical, and religious scenes. One of his paintings long decorated the cartons in which Haïti's Barbancourt sold its rhum, the best in the world.
Jean–Baptiste Jean, another student of
Philomé Obin, is among my favorite narrative artists.
An eyewitness to La maison en feu ('house on fire') told me this painting is a good impression of the scene — of dwellers trying frantically to save their few possessions. The house itself, once the mansion of a wealthy Cap–Haitien family, had been abandoned to squatters. They cooked their meals over braziers filled with charcoal, wood, and paper products. What was bound to happen, happened….
Vertriers, near le Cap, was the site of an 1803 battle in which ragtag Haitian troops thrashed the remnants of an army Bonaparte had sent to reimpose slavery. The ex–slaves' victory ensured Haïti's freedom. It also caused Napoleon to abandon hopes of an American empire: he soon agreed to the 'Louisiana Purchase.' The nascent United States doubled its territory, came to believe in 'manifest destiny,' took huge chunks out of Mexico, and ended up with the 48 contiguous states as they are today.
The president who dedicated the Vertriers monument was Paul Magliore, one of the lucky ones. Fêted by Eisenhower at the White House in 1954, he was not murdered, but merely deposed and sent into exile (in 1956). His lovely home, high above Petionville, housed a small art gallery as recently as 1989.
The house that burned down and the monument depicted in Jean's 'Vertriers' are pictured at right.
Jean joined the Centre d'Art as a teenager and by 1950 was secretary of the
l He painted
most of the murals that adorn the former François Duvalier (and now
which he opened in the late 1960s, was the first 'Afro–Haitian' owned
gallery in the country.
He influenced — and at L'Atelier he trained — scores of other painters, including such major
218. Little Angel
Nothing known; just liked it.
Jean–Claude has appeared in two on–line galleries since mid–2000. He's an interesting naïf who may have been influenced by Pierre–Louis Riche. (More recent Jean–Claude works, of very fat people, tend to confirm this guess.)
Jean–Louis, a native of Jerémie on Haïti's long southern
peninsula, is known especially for his
detailed nature scenes. He's been dubbed a 'sophisticated naïf.'
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