Do an Internet search for “Haitian art ” and…depending on your level of familiarity with the art world…you may be surprised, awestruck, blown away, or simply enchanted by what you find. These big, bright images, though they may be classified as “folk art ,” are sometimes reminiscent of Picasso, Rivera, Matisse, Cézanne, or even Van Gogh.
Haitian art is big. And not just big in size (yes, some of these pieces are several feet in each direction), but big in popularity. And…be prepared, sometimes these masterpieces have big price tags too.
Folk art has a long tradition in Haiti. A former slave named Luc, of Leogane, earned a reputation as a painter during French Colonial times. Presidents Henri Christophe and Alexandre Pétion were both patrons of the arts ; in the 1840s, Emperor Soulouque founded the Imperial Academy of the Arts .
American schoolteacher DeWitt Peters, arriving in Haiti in the 1940s, was impressed by the raw artistic talent he saw in many untrained and often uneducated painters, workers of all trades who would go home from their day jobs and produce these marvelous works of art . So in 1944, he founded Centre d’Art in Port-au-Prince and became an advocate of Haitian art –a style known as folk, naïve, or intuitive art , characterized by vivid colors, proportions that don’t follow the rules, and freedom of expression. Peters and his school brought Haitian folk art to the attention of the Western world, and it soon achieved worldwide fame.
The Haitian folk art movement has been controversial because the label of “authenticity” was placed on it to the exclusion of others style of art . Some ask, Who gave Western art critics the right to decide what represents true Haitian art ? Haitian painters to this day struggle with this preconceived notion of what Haitian art “should” be.
Collectors value highly the works of the masters of this style, and Haitian art is some of the most appreciated art in the world.
Unfortunately, traveling to Haiti oneself is a tricky thing for an art lover, collector, or dealer to do. Fortunately, a large and growing number of websites offer Haitian art for sale. Take an artistic journey…search “Haitian art ” and take a look.