Painted Art Work from Haiti

"Clugny Market" - 1966 - by Seneque Obin
"Clugny Market" - 1966 - by Seneque Obin | Source
Remains of the Centre d'Art in Haiti
Remains of the Centre d'Art in Haiti | Source

A History of Haitian Painting

We can thank former school teacher, DeWitt Clinton Peters, for starting an art awareness movement in Haiti that never existed before his arrival in 1943. Peters chose to teach English to students in Haiti rather than active military duty during World War II. Peters was shocked to hear that Haiti had no formal center for art and very few Haitians recognized the art of painting as an alternative source of income despite the fact that there were art classes and instruction offered as early as 1816 in the northern part of the country. Peters dropped out from teaching English and declared that promoting art and its teaching was a better use of his time.

A watercolor enthusiast, DeWitt Clinton Peters, who hailed from California, worked with the local government and a building was donated to be formed into Le Centre d' Art which opened to the public in 1944. The center was a place to instruct Haitians with art lessons as well as display their artwork. Peters used some of his own money to fund the project while the Haitian government funded mostly salaries and operating expenses.

Peter's enthusiam for the talent of Haitian art led him to promote it through his connections in Paris and Havana. The world's eye turned to Haitian art and it became a good source of income for local artists.

Sadly, in the earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010, the Centre d'Art was destroyed. While rescuers were trying to save lives, art work representing the country lay exposed to the elements and could be seen hanging on walls openly exposed after the devastating quake. It is estimated that $30 million in artwork has been lost and it will take a long time rebuild and recover.

Le Centre d'Art 1950

"The Siren" - 1946 - Hector Hyppolite
"The Siren" - 1946 - Hector Hyppolite | Source
"Basket of Fruit" - 1980's - Adam Leontus
"Basket of Fruit" - 1980s - Adam Leontus | Source

Most Notable Haitian Painters

Hector Hyppolite was a voodoo priest who painted with chicken feathers and left over house paint from his full time work of house painting. Hyppolite painted images on cardboard with chicken feathers because he owned no brushes. He then sold them to visiting Marines. Phillipe Thoby-Marcelin discovered Hyppolite's talent and brought him to the Centre d'Art where Hyppolite worked with Dewitt Clinton Peters. Hyppolite's paintings were rich with voodoo symbolism like birds and flowers. His paintings are considered to be dreamy and surrealistic.

Alexandre Gregoire is another well known Haitian artists who like Hyppolite is known for his surrealistic images and unlike Hector Hyppolite captured many national events in the naïve style of his technique. A cabinent maker by trade and a member of military until 1950, Gregoire also crafted his talent of painting through the Centre d'Art with Peters.

Adam Leontus was another Centre d'Art notable. Born in 1928, he joined the Centre d'Art in 1948. While Leontus painted voodoo subjects, he was not open about it. He is most well known for his still lives that depict vegetation, birds and water scenes. His work is very serene yet colorful and a good example of the Haitian primitive style of painted artwork. Adam Leontus' early work also included designs of Voodoo flags besides the Voodoo paintings. He helped to decorate the church organ of Holy Trinity Cathedral in 1963 and his paintings can currently be found in the permanent collections of the Milwaukee Museum of Art, the Musee d'Art Haitian of Port Au Prince, UCLA Fowler Museum in Los Angeles, the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Waterloo Museum of Art in Iowa.

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Comments 3 comments

donnah75 profile image

donnah75 3 years ago from Upstate New York

Interesting. The impact and devastation of that earthquake runs very deep. A country loses a piece of its heart when life and when art is lost. I have students who have come to the US from Haiti. Your article reminds me talk with them about their culture and the beautiful things they remember before so much was lost. Thank you.


cabmgmnt profile image

cabmgmnt 3 years ago from Northfield, MA Author

Thanks Donnah75. I was lucky enough to visit Haiti when I was a teenager as a youth minister. I was delighted by the art and culture. I was deeply saddened by the devastation the earthquake brought to such an empoverished country.


flashmakeit profile image

flashmakeit 3 years ago from usa

Thanks for the delightful article . I love Haitian art work because of the vivid colors.

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