- Dolores M. Yonker
(b Saint-Marc, Sept 15, 1894; d Port-au-Prince, Jun 9, 1948).
Haitian painter. The 250 works produced by him during the last two-and-a-half years of his life dominate the extraordinary achievements of the so-called Haitian primitives. Like his father and grandfather he was a priest of Vodoun. He also worked as a shoemaker and housepainter, and it was interest in some painted doors in a bar in Monrouis, near Saint-Marc, that led him to paint pictures. Hyppolite created his own myth and lived it. His claim to have spent five years in Africa is dubious, but it is certain that he was outside Haiti from 1915 to 1920, perhaps cutting cane in Cuba. Most of his life was lived in penury. The Haitian critic and poet Philippe Thoby-Marcelin brought him to Port-au-Prince in 1945. In the following year André Breton bought his paintings and arranged an exhibition of his work at UNESCO in Paris, writing that Hyppolite’s fresh and powerful imagery could reinvigorate European art (Breton 1979). His subjects invite interpretation on many levels. His principal subject, with whom he contracted a spiritual marriage, was woman, in the form of Erzulie the temptress, the queen, or the sea goddess. Figures, landscapes, and other objects are represented almost summarily in his pictures; he placed little value on perfecting techniques, applying the paint rapidly with chicken feathers and his fingers. In his last year the darker side of magical Vodoun appeared in his pictures....