Valcin, GérardH (1925–88)

   A tile–setter early in life, Gérard Valcin began painting in 1951 and quickly became one of the most acclaimed of Haitian artists. He's often ranked with Wilmino Domond and André Pierre in a trio of 'leading artists of the "second generation."'
   I knew Valcin well and commissioned three works from him. He also obtained, for me, a badly damaged work by the legendary Hector Hyppolite which I later sold.
   A 'near–commission' was for another piece I've sold — Gaguerre ('Cock Fight'), the weakest of the lot. The work was mostly finished when Valcin foisted it upon me in 1987 — in exchange for a promise to bring him a color television set on my next visit. When I returned to Haïti the next year, Valcin had just died. I gave the TV to his son, home on bereavement leave from the army — the United States Army.

46. Woman in Red_
c1979 (30x24)


102. 'Papa Zaca'
1985 (24x20)









   My very first Valcin, Woman in Red, came from a gallery. I admire it anew each time it enters my field of vision. The woman is placed exactly where she ought not to be — dead–center in the painting. But the scheme works because of the way the artist exaggerates perspective in rendering the plants. (In early 2006 Galerie Metisse was offering a similar, though much smaller work, for $3,900. See the enlargement.)

   Though I had asked for paintings of Coumbite and Papa Zaca, I was disappointed when I picked them up: they are near–copies of works Valcin had done previously. He produced, in fact, several other Coumbites — the coöperative Haitian harvest. Mine is as good as any; but it's still a third, or a seventh, or…. (Clicking the thumbnail allows comparison with one other rendering.)
   Papa Zaca, the harvest god, is a special favorite of most Haitians. For good reason. He's always shown gorging himself — an excess that can only be a dream for most hungry Haitians. (An earlier version of Papa Zaca appears on the cover of Ute Stebich's Haitian Art: see Reading.)
   Cérémonie pour Grande Brijitte, on the other hand, is an original. Valcin told me he'd never painted a Brijitte, but had always wanted to — and he offered me a 'special price' if I'd agree to 'commission' one. It was an offer I couldn't refuse.


115. 'Agoué'
1984 (24x48)

  I love all my Valcins, and Woman in Red is a favorite, as a first of anything often is, but it is not my very favorite.
   Agoué is. I first saw the work in a gallery owner's Port–au–Prince home about a year after it was painted. It wasn't for sale. 'It's my favorite Valcin,' the dealer said. Over five years later — and nearly three years after Valcin's death — the gallery owner said he needed a new car. I got the painting — and by far the better half of the deal.

   Gerard Valcin was, like all too many Haitian artists, an alcoholic. According to a friend who knew him well, Valcin spent his mornings and afternoons painting and his evenings and nights drinking. He might have lived a good deal longer but for his addiction to rhum. But life in Haïti can easily drive one to drink.

101. 'Coumbite'
1984 (30x24)



109. 'Cérémonie pour Grande Brijitte'
1986 (24x20)
















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