Obas, Charles (1927-67)

242. Village Scene_
c1967 (19x38)


   As if to presage his fate, Charles Obas's paintings are always overcast — often rainy — and gloomy if not threatening.
   When François (Papa Doc) Duvalier had one of the artist's cousins killed, Obas went to the National Palace to protest. Wrong move. Though the President–for–Life knew the artist personally and owned several of his paintings, the tyrant killed Obas too. (Among Haitian artists, only the lives of Stivenson Magliore and Camy Rocher ended as tragically.)
   Obas was a talented musician (and named his son Beethova) as well as a highly prized artist.
   This painting evokes the Haitian countryside better than any other I've seen.
   (The largest collection of Obas works, in the U S if not the world, is the display of 49 paintings on the website of the Chicago Gallery of Haitian Art.


     Obin, Antoine (1929–91)

124. Cap–Haitien Street Scene
c1989 (20x24)


   A son of Philomé Obin, Antoine was a competent draftsman.

    We met twice, the second time when I visited Philomé to pick up a self–portrait I'd commissioned.
   In his letter informing me that the work was ready, Philomé had identified it as Auto–Portrait de Philomé Obin. Unlike most of his works, it bore no written title at the bottom.
   As I was about to claim my treasure, Antoine asked his father why the title was missing.
   'Not needed,' the old man grunted — pointing to his signature on the painting.
   (Antoine, as forger, played a rôle in my obtaining one of his father's best–known works.)


     Obin, Henri–Claude (1934–2000)

57. 'La malade … le prètre'
1976 (20x24)





   Henri–Claude was probably the most gifted of Philomé Obin's many progeny. His work is outstanding in draftsmanship, color, and characterization.
   The full titles of these works are:
l 'La malade recoit l'extreme onction
         par le prêtre'

   Like his father, Henri–Claude was a Baptist. Can that be why the priest in this painting is a blan, a white man? Until the regime of François ('Papa Doc') Duvalier, the Roman Catholic Church in Haïti was dominated by whites, mostly Frenchmen — a fact much resented by Haitian nationalists. By the time of this painting, however, most priests were native Haitians.
l 'Le president Borno et ses ministres'
   Borno was president of Haïti in 1922–29 — during the first American Occupation — so this is not a painting from life.
   The artist was another member of the Haitian diaspora: he lived in New York for many years and died there.


186. 'Le president Borno …'
1986 (24x30)







     Obin, Michaëlle (    –    )

213. 'Fusillade de Charlemagne Peralte….'_
n/d (24x36) 

   Charlemagne Peralte led the struggle against the 1915 American invasion. U S Marines ultimately found and killed him. They then strapped his corpse to an unhinged door and displayed it in Cap–Haitien to discourage further resistance.
   Michaëlle Obin's grandfather, Philomè, at least twice painted scenes of Peralte's 'crucifixion' — a scene he witnessed as a young man.
   Michaëlle's rendering shows Peralte similarly bound, with cloth of red and blue, the colors of the Haitian flag. (The understandably blanc–hating Jean–Jacques Dessalines created the first Haitian flag by ripping the white panel out of the French tricoleur.)
   Though Peralte was shot in a skirmish, Michaëlle represents his death as an execution. To the martyr's right a young man — Philomé? — mourns the Haitian hero's tragic end.


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