Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Grove Art Online. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).

date: 10 April 2020

Haiti, Republic offree

  • Dolores M. Yonker
  •  and Eva Pataki

Country in the Caribbean. Occupying 26,000 sq. km of the western part of the island of Hispaniola (see fig.), it is volcanic in origin and mountainous. Intense cultivation of mountain slopes has caused severe erosion, and despite attempts at reforestation, Haiti is virtually barren of forest cover. The principal agricultural regions are the lowlands of the northern plain, the central plateau, the valley of the Artibonite River and the Cul de Sac plain in the south. Over 100 rivers and streams flow from mountain headlands into the Atlantic to the north, the Gulf of La Gonâve to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the south. The largest cities are the capital of Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haïtien in the north. The majority of Haitians speak French Creole and practise the religion of Vodoun.

Map of Haiti

I. Introduction.

  • Dolores M. Yonker

Christopher Columbus landed on Hispaniola in 1492, making it a Spanish colony. In 1664 Louis XIV placed the territory of Haiti under the control of the French West India Company, and renamed Saint-Domingue, it was ceded to France in 1697 by the Treaty of Rijswijk; Spain retained control over Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic) in the east of the island. French hegemony over Saint-Domingue created a wealthy colony with a productive plantation economy built on the labours of African slaves, the Amerindian population having proved too recalcitrant and too physically frail for the gruelling work and maltreatment meted out by their Spanish overlords. Ironically, a Dominican priest, Bartolomé de Las Casas, appalled at the dreadful toll suffered by the Amerindians, suggested the importation of African labour. As a result, Africans arrived in ever-increasing numbers from the beginning of the 16th century until the Haitian Revolution of 1791, led by Toussaint L’Ouverture. Slaves were briefly freed following the French Revolution (1789–99), but slavery was subsequently reimposed, and it was not until independence was declared in 1804 that they were finally emancipated. Despite the country’s small size, the nature of its terrain has produced a rich variety of regional differences. The north has tended to retain more vestiges of its colonial past.

Since it became the first independent republic in the Caribbean, Haiti has suffered a troubled history, particularly in the 20th century. Between 1915 and 1934 the country was occupied by the USA, and in 1950, following a military coup, Dr François ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier became president, marking the beginning of a period of dictatorship that lasted until 1991. After another brief period of military rule, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was re-installed as president in 1994.


  • J.-B. du Tertre: Histoire générale des Antilles habitées par les Français (Paris, 1667)
  • Le R. Père Labat: Nouveau voyage aux îles de l’Amérique, 8 vols (Paris, 1742)
  • L. E. Moreau de Saint-Méry: Description topographique, physique, civile, politique et historique de la partie française de l’Ile de Saint-Domingue, 2 vols (Philadelphia, 1797)
  • T. Madiou: Histoire d’Haïti, 4 vols (Port-au-Prince, 1848–1922)
  • H. Courlander: The Drum and the Hoe: Life and Lore of the Haitian People (Berkeley, 1960)
  • C. L. R. James: The Black Jacobins (New York, 1963)
  • U. Stebich, ed.: Haitian Art (New York, 1978; Ger. trans., 1979)
  • J. Dayan: Haiti: History and the Gods (Berkeley, c.1995)

II. Cultures.

1. Amerindian.

  • Dolores M. Yonker

The earliest migrants to arrive in the Caribbean were the Amerindians known as Ciboneys. They came from either Venezuela, Yucatán or Florida, or perhaps from all three regions. Motifs carved on their hemispherical stone vessels, axes and other objects resemble those found on stone bowls and early pottery from Florida, particularly in the striations incised on the rims of pots. Forms of flint implements, however, suggest Cuban connections. The finely polished petalloid celts are found throughout the Caribbean, and they appear with clay griddles that coincide with the development of agriculture. When Columbus landed on the north shore of Haiti, most of the inhabitants were Arawak-speaking Tainos, who are believed to have emigrated from the Amazon Basin. Sometimes they are also referred to as ‘Ceramic Indians’ from the red slip-painted pottery that they produced. They decorated the handles of their vessels with modelled zoomorphic and anthropomorphic figures, probably of religious significance. On his second voyage Columbus brought the Spanish priest Ramón Pané to make a record of the island’s culture. Pané noted that these saucer-eyed creatures with relief appliqués represented deities, or zemis. Zemis were also carved in wood, stone, bone and shell. They presumably served also as amulets or small, personal altars; funeral remains were also packed into baskets elaborated with figures of zemis. Such objects were sometimes preserved in caves, which evidently served as shrines; petroglyphs and paintings of zemis have also been found in caves. Pané explained the zemis as intermediaries to the all-powerful deity. Columbus recorded in his diary that Taino chiefs (caciques) had small houses reserved as zemi shrines where ceremonies were led by priests in narcotics-induced trances.

Few objects carved in wood have survived, but these exhibit a high level of skill and aesthetic sensibility. The largest, taken from the Ile de La Gonâve, is a squatting figure carved from a hollowed tree trunk, which may have served as the body of a drum. Several examples of dujos (squat, four-legged stools with curved seats carved with an animal or human head at the front) are preserved in the Museo del Hombre Domeniciano (formerly the Museo Nacional), Santo Domingo; the Heye Foundation, Museum of the American Indian, New York; the British Museum, London; and the Musée de l’Homme, Paris. One has its gold inlay intact, a rare surviving example of Taino goldwork. A terracotta vessel in the form of a head, with characteristic discoid eyes (Paris, Mus. de l’Homme), was used to hold cohoba, the narcotic powder inhaled through tubes to induce trance during religious ceremonies (see also South America, Pre-Columbian, §I, 3, (ii)). One curious and common form is the trigonolite, a triangular stone carving that often bears rudimentary human features, the function of which is unknown but could relate to the custom recorded by Columbus’s son that each cacique had three ritual stones for use in ceremonies for fertility or rain.

Columbus instituted a scheme called repartimientos or encomienda: a system of distributing land to European settlers that included the Amerindians living there. Within decades of European arrival on Hispaniola the Amerindian population was virtually annihilated, but encomienda survived and continued as the foundation of the subsequent plantation economy. The influence of Arawak dwelling-types can be seen in the palisaded walls, porches and lashing building techniques still used in some areas of Haiti.


  • I. Rouse: Prehistory in Haiti (New Haven, 1939)
  • E. Mangones and L. Maximilien: L’Art pré-colombien d’Haïti (Port-au-Prince, 1941)
  • F. G. Rainey: Excavations in the Fort Liberté Region, Haiti (New Haven, 1941)
  • M. Aubourg: Haïti préhistorique (Port-au-Prince, 1951)
  • H. J. Braunholtz: ‘The Oldman Collection: Aztec Gong and Ancient Arawak Stool’, British Museum Quarterly, 16/2 (1951), pp. 54–5
  • I. Rouse: ‘Areas and Periods of Culture in the Greater Antilles’, Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, 7 (1951), pp. 248–65
  • I. Rouse: ‘Prehistory of the West Indies’, Science, 1 (1964), pp. 419–513
  • J. E. Cruxent and I. Rouse: ‘Early Man in the West Indies’, Scientific American (Nov 1969), pp. 42–69
  • M. V. Maggiolo: Arqueología prehistórica de Santo Domingo (Singapore, 1972)
  • I. Rouse: ‘Roots: Pre-Columbian’, Haitian Art, ed. U. Stebich (New York, 1978), pp. 22–5
  • W. Hodges: ‘L’Art rupestre précolombien en Haïti’, Conjonction, 143 (1979), pp. 5–38
  • C. P. Charles, ed.: Christophe Colomb, les Indiens et leurs survivances en Haïti: Etudes historiques, linguistiques, sociologiques réunies, présentées (Port au Prince, 1992)

2. Afro-Caribbean.

  • Dolores M. Yonker

After the annihilation of the Amerindians it became imperative for the Spanish to find an alternative source of labour to support their evolving colonial regime. Bartolomé de Las Casas’s proposal to import Africans, since he believed them more resistant to the tropical climate and more accustomed to fieldwork, was attractive to the Spanish government. Their concurrent incursions into Mesoamerica had absorbed much of their resources, and the prospect of a productive and relatively docile colony was a welcome one. Nicholas de Ovando, the first Governor of Haiti, ordered the importation of the first Africans; by 1520 they constituted almost all of the labour force. By 1521 the Spanish interest in their Caribbean colonies waned, after they had achieved the conquest of Mexico and tapped the gold reserves of South America. The population dwindled and the northern coast fell prey to French and English pirates.

By the 17th century the population of Saint-Domingue was estimated at 6000 adult white and mulatto males and c. 50,000 black slaves. By 1775 the slave population had increased to c. 250,000, and whites and mulattos numbered c. 30,000. These statistics do not, however, include the ‘maroons’, escapees from slavery or servitude who sought and maintained asylum in isolated mountain valleys, building their own society based on African rather than European models. Although they periodically raided plantations, the maroons were of only peripheral concern until the years preceding the Revolution. Maroon chiefs formed warrior bands in the mountains and established contact with counterparts in the plantations and towns. The revolutionaries considered themselves as Africans, enlisting the aid of spiritual entities derived primarily from the cultures of Dahomey (see Benin Republic) and the lower Congo Basin. The complex of beliefs, customs and ethical standards that united them was called Vodoun, a term deriving from the Fon language of Dahomey, as does much of the terminology and practice of Vodoun.

The 18th century was a crucial period in the development of Haitian culture. A rapidly increasing demand for fieldworkers for sugar and indigo plantations coincided with an influx of Congolese immigrants. Afro-Caribbeans of Dahomean origin tended to look down on the more recent, Congolese arrivals, referring to them as bossale, a term used in Vodoun to designate an uncontrolled and often violent possession of the spirit. Vodoun is the religion practised by the majority of Haitian people. An essential objective is the invocation of the loas (spirits), which constitute a pantheon of 401, all facets of an all-powerful deity referred to as the ‘Bon Met’ (Fr. Creole: ‘Good Master’). During the ritual these spirits are believed to ‘mount’ their ‘horses’, that is possess the devotees. The loas are divided into groups or ‘nations’, two of which are dominant: the Rada loas, believed wise and essentially beneficent, are named after Alladah, a Dahomean town; the Petro loas have linguistic and symbolic connections to the Republic of Congo and to Angola. The Rada spirits reside over such domestic rites of passage as marriage, initiation and naming; the Petro loas are spoken of as tough and fiery, ready to meet the demands of a devotee given the appropriate remuneration. The pantheon of Vodoun reflects sources of other African peoples’ migrations: Mande, Bamana, Yoruba, Ewe, Igbo and Akan.

The influence of Africa survives in Haiti in manufacturing techniques, cooperative labour and the construction and design of dwellings in lakous (traditional compounds). Such social institutions as the decision-making hierarchy, polygamy, kinship ties and obligations, veneration of ancestors and child-naming have African prototypes. As in some traditional African societies, women play the crucial role in commercial transactions. Certain assumptions are held in common with African ones, including the accessibility to divinity by means of mediating spirits in anthropomorphic form. Music and dance are central to any gathering in Haiti, and both are heavily influenced by Africa in the instruments, dances, songs and ritual objects used, for example the iron standards (asens), deriving from Dahomey, and the power objects (paquets Congo). Creolized with sequins, ribbons and feathers, these resemble the minkisi medicine bundles of the Congo and Zaïre. The tradition of linked terracotta bowls honouring twins is found in various African societies, especially the Fon and Bamana.

Before most ceremonies, geometric ground drawings (vèvès) are executed in flour, brick dust, ashes or coloured powders. Sifted skilfully on to the earth floor of the temple (houmfort) by a priest or priestess, they are intended to invite spirits to attend the ceremony and possess their devotees. Each loa has a particular vèvè, and the complete ensemble of hundreds of drawings constitutes a symbolic set. Similar drawings are made in Angola, Zambia, Zaïre and Nigeria; some authorities have suggested Amerindian prototypes. The emblems and the ceremonies have appeared in the paintings of Haitians who are also adepts (see §IV below). The influence of Vodoun on arts also applies to such colourful ritual objects as the sequinned flags emblazoned with sacred vèvès, shrine objects, sacred wall paintings and regalia. The complex symbolism used in the service of the loas directs the use of certain colours, musical rhythms, dance movements, odours and tastes. The ceremonies are multi-sensory in their appeal.


  • J. Price-Mars: Ainsi parle l’oncle (Paris, 1928; Eng. trans., Washington, DC, 1983)
  • M. Herskovits: Life in a Haitian Valley (New York, 1937)
  • H. Courlander: Haiti Singing (Chapel Hill, 1939)
  • L. Maximilien: Le Vodou haïtien: Rite Radas-Canzo (Port-au-Prince, 1945)
  • M. Deren: Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti (New York, 1953)
  • M. Rigaud: La Tradition voudoo et le voudoo haïtien (Paris, 1953)
  • A. Métraux: Le Vaudou haïtien (Paris, 1958; Eng. trans., London, 1959 and New York, 1972)
  • H. Courlander: The Drum and the Hoe: Life and Lore of the Haitian People (Berkeley, 1960)
  • R. Bastide: Les Amériques noires (Paris, 1967; Eng. trans. as African Civilizations in the New World, London, 1971)
  • J. B. Romain: Africanisme haïtien: Compilations et notes (Port-au-Prince, 1978)
  • R. F. Thompson: Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy (New York, 1983)
  • Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou (exh. cat., Los Angeles, CA, Fowler Mus. Cult. Hist., 1995)
  • L. M. Martínez Montiel, ed.: Presencia africana en el Caribe (Mexico City, 1995)

III. Architecture.

  • Dolores M. Yonker

Indigenous architectural forms were a composite of available materials and technologies suitable to the climate and life values of the populace. Several types were published by Gonzalez de Oviedo in 1526 (see bibliography). An early type, the caney, was hexagonal in plan with a single door: cane strips or twigs were lashed to heavy corner posts, often trunks of the royal palm; the roof was steeply pitched for drainage. The more common rectangular-plan form with a verandah-like porch, a single doorway and several small windows was probably based on Yoruban prototypes. Like its modern successor, it was thatched with palm leaves or guinea grass, the wattled walls filled with mud, then plastered. It was grouped with storehouses, cookhouses and a community vodoun temple (houmfort) in a compound (lakou) that stems from African models. Adapted to the Spanish urban grid, this house type, timber-framed, extended three or four rooms deep. High ceilings and heavily shuttered doors and windows with iron fittings reflected a colonial influence. The verandah, providing cool shelter and allowing for social interaction, also evolved in the West Indies.

Columbus ordered earthwork fortifications at once for Hispaniola’s vulnerable north coast. Sizeable coastal cities were subsequently protected with more durable fortifications. Typical of the coastal forts was St Louis, constructed in an irregular pentagonal plan around an open court, with five bastions at the corners. It provided a model for subsequent constructions. France was forced to fortify 40 more sites, using designs inspired by Sébastien Leprestre de Vauban, which abandoned easily targeted high walls and towers for a more expansive series of earthen walls surfaced with heavy masonry, taking advantage of topographical features.

Henri Christophe’s Citadelle de la Ferrière (inaugurated 1816) remains the ultimate example of West Indian military architecture. Covering one hectare atop a mountain, it is a four-sided fort with a prowlike bastion soaring c. 15 m above ground. Below it, the Palais de Sans Souci (c. 1813; designed by an English officer, Ferrière) is an imposing three-storey Neo-classical edifice. The pedimented façade is approached by a monumental double stairway. A remarkable water-system supplied the buildings and irrigated the elegant gardens and its fountains.

In the 18th century the designs of residential buildings were based largely on English Georgian traditions. English pattern books provided examples of classically symmetrical façades, with pediments and engaged pilasters that were adapted to urban as well as plantation houses. The shops and town houses in Jacmel and Cap-Haïtien typify the more modest urban structures. Heavy, masonry ground floors with doors opening on to the street support lighter and often overhanging second storeys, with decorated balconies of iron or turned wood. Exuberantly scrolled ironwork was imported from France and Germany and inspired iron markets to be set up in the major town centres.

Few examples of early churches remain. The Old Cathedral, Port-au-Prince, a timbered barrel-vaulted, slate-roofed, five-aisle example, was built in 1720 and was under restoration until destroyed in 1991. The Baroque pedimented façade, with a central tower flanked by curved volutes, was typical. In the 19th century the simple town-house form in Port-au-Prince exploded in a riot of fanciful towers, fretwork and ornamental colonnades. The development of machines capable of producing decorative multiples challenged Haitian creativity and produced the ‘gingerbread’ house style. Like the popular louvres and jalousies, fretwork was not only decorative but provided natural ventilation from the prevailing trade winds.

The surviving public buildings in Port-au-Prince exemplify variety and eclecticism. The Roman Catholic cathedral (completed 1915), a confection of pink and white stone, is a Romanesque Revival building. The glistening white Palais National (1918) on the Champ de Mars was designed and built by Georges Baussan during the American occupation (1915–34). Albert Mangones and Robert Baussan (b 1937), as well as the younger Pierre-Richard Villedrouin, have contributed to the development of modernism in Port-au-Prince with blocks of flats, office buildings and restaurants. The Musée du Panthéon National Haïtien on the central Champ de Mars owes its blue-tiled conical roof fantasies to the French architect Alexandre Guichard.

Unpublished sources

Port-au-Prince, Inst. Sauvegarde Patrm. N. [various documents]

  • D. Didier, D. Elie and P. E. Lubin: Evolution du système de défense en Haïti (1983)


  • G. F. de Oviedo: Natural History of the West Indies (originally pubd Toledo, 1526; Eng. trans., Chapel Hill, NC, 1959)
  • A. A. Phillips: Gingerbread Houses: Haiti’s Endangered Species (Port-au-Prince, 1975)
  • The Afro-American Tradition in Decorative Arts (exh. cat. by J. Vlach, Cleveland, OH, Mus. A., 1978), pp. 122–38
  • P. Gosner: Caribbean Georgian: The Great and Small Houses of the West Indies (Washington, DC, 1982)
  • E. E. Crain: Historic Houses in the Caribbean (Gainesville, 1994)
  • P. Gosner: Caribbean Baroque: Historic Architecture of the Spanish Antilles (Pueblo, CO, 1996)

IV. Painting, sculpture and other arts.

  • Dolores M. Yonker and Eva Pataki

Wealthy colonials were eager consumers of art from abroad: the construction and furnishing of plantation houses and town houses created a demand for luxury items and decorative objects. Foreign artists satisfied most of the demand for portraiture; furniture, ceramics, glassware, jewellery and textiles were imported from France and elsewhere. The Revolution, which terminated slavery, and French hegemony marked the founding of a black republic. The history of Haitian painting and sculpture is documented principally from that time. Henri Christophe, crowned King in 1811, set out to build a monarchy modelled on that of England: the creation and appreciation of art was to be the province of royalty. Christophe’s portrait was painted by the English painter Richard Evans (1784–1871), whom Christophe had invited to Haiti to begin a programme of art education (see §V below). Christophe’s pose and the setting are derived from English historical portrait tradition. One of Evans’s students, Numa Desroches (?1802–?1880), painted naive but informative renderings of Christophe’s Palais de Sans Souci at Milot.

Until well into the 20th century, painting was dominated by European styles, mainly French and English Romanticism and French and Italian Baroque. Alexandre Pétion, President of the southern Haitian Republic (1807–19), was determinedly Francophile, patronizing such French painters as J. Barincou, who arrived in Haiti in 1816 and was listed in the Philadelphia City Directory in 1839. His paintings of generals adorned the Palais National. Thimoleon Dejoie (?1800–65) received commissions from President Boyer (1818–43) for historic paintings celebrating his rule: one of his most notable works represented Boyer entering Cap-Haïtien with his generals. Little more than the names of two sculptors important at the time are documented: the quality of Jayme Guilliod’s (1800–70) work can be estimated in a drawing for a figure of Toussaint L’Ouverture in chains, which dates from 1851. Louis Edmond Laforesterie (1837–94), who was also noted for heroic portraits, had studied in Paris and later returned there when political turmoil threatened his livelihood. It was the Emperor Faustin Soulouque who appointed and titled the court painter Baron Colbert de Lochard (1804–74). Seven of his religious paintings (1851–3) hung in the Old Cathedral in Port-au-Prince. For Lochard and others the French portrait painter Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659–1743) was a model. By the late 19th century the popularity of the new medium of photography had reduced the market for painted portraits, but historic subjects were still depicted. Edouard Goldman (1870–1930) won a medal at the Exposition Universelle in Brussels (1910) for his interpretation of the Discovery of America. Unfortunately the destruction of the Palais National in 1912 destroyed the entire national collection of paintings, including the historical series.

Until the advent in the 1920s of the Indigenist movement, which stimulated a new interest in Haitian culture, Haiti’s art was based upon academic models; talented students were sent to Paris for instruction in drawing and painting. However, the literary movements of 1890 and 1915 paved the way to a genuinely Haitian art. The excesses of the first years of the American occupation prompted Goldman in 1920 to paint the caco (rebel) chief Charlemagne Perrault crucified. The same subject was to be taken up again by the Cap-Haïtien painter Philomé Obin, whose aim was to be the creator of a visual history of his country. In 1944 he sent the representation of Roosevelt’s lifting of the American occupation to the newly opened Centre d’Art in Port-au-Prince. At this time a flowering of Haitian arts began. Three generations of artists have emerged from the Centre, including Petion Savain (1906–73) and his pupils George Remponeau (b 1916) and Maurice Borno (1917–55). Some, such as Luce Turnier (b 1924), Antonio Joseph and Jacques Enguerrand Gourgue (b 1930), work in international styles; others known as ‘primitives’ were essentially self-taught, including Obin, Castera Bazile, Wilson Bigaud and Rigaud Benoit. The latter were the principal artists selected to contribute murals (executed in tempera) to the project at Sainte Trinité Cathedral in Port-au-Prince. Artists who are also priests of Vodoun, such as Hector Hyppolite, André Pierre and LaFortune Félix, and those who claim to be only observers, such as Benoit, Bigaud and Gérard Valcin, have depicted the dramatic ceremonies of their religion, representing loas in imaginative forms.

Sculptors in Haiti have developed a unique medium using scrap metal to cut and pound into figure compositions. Oil-drums have also been transformed into decorative, lacelike representations of everyday scenes, Vodoun archetypes or mythical images of African origin. The drums are processed into flat plates, with designs traced in chalk and then cut out with hammer and chisel, and finished by polishing. Artists working with this form include Georges Liautaud, Serge Jolimeau (b 1952), Murat Brierre (1938–92) and Gary Darius. Several artists have produced notable wood-carvings, but threats of terrible retribution during the centuries of colonial domination effectively stifled the African legacy of carved masks and figures. Other sculptors have produced brightly painted papier-mâché works, including figures with a carnivalesque gaiety.

The collaboration after c. 1944 between fine artists and craftsworkers is exemplified by painted screens and room dividers, the results of a successful union between the local popular painters and cabinetmakers. Most are mass-produced, but some are painted by such artists as Fernand Pierre, Adam Leontus (b 1923) and Ghandi Daniel. They depict brilliantly coloured scenes of enchanted landscapes or jungles with fantastic flora and fauna. Wooden storage boxes of various sizes, painted with similar decoration, have become popular with tourists and collectors. Artists who have painted these include Bernard Touissant, Vierge Pierre (b 1945) and Jackson Charlot. The painted decoration on ‘tap-taps’, small open buses used for public transport in Port-au-Prince, includes religious subjects and colourful animals and flowers. Vodoun flags and ritual paraphernalia are also mass-produced for the tourist market, for example painted calabashes or gourds, intended as offerings to loas. André Pierre has elevated this medium to an art form. Pottery, weaving and basketwork are also produced by skilled Haitian artists.


  • L. E. Moreau de Saint Méry: Description topographique, physique, civile, politique et historique de la partie française de l’Ile de Saint-Domingue, 2 vols (Philadelphia, 1797)
  • P. Thoby-Marcelin: Art in Latin America Today: Haiti (Washington, DC, 1959)
  • Artists of the Western Hemisphere: Art of Haiti and Jamaica (New York, 1968)
  • S. Williams: Voodoo and the Art of Haiti (1969)
  • P. Apraxine: Haitian Painting: The Naïve Tradition (New York, 1973)
  • S. Rodman: The Miracle of Haitian Art (New York, 1973)
  • J.-M. Drot: Journal de voyage chez les peintres du voudou (Geneva, 1974)
  • E. I. Christensen: The Art of Haiti (New York, 1975)
  • L. G. Hoffman: Haitian Art: The Legend and Legacy of the Naïve Tradition (Iowa, 1975)
  • U. Stebich: Haitian Art (New York, 1978; Ger. trans., 1979)
  • J. Anquetil: Haïti, l’artisanat créateur (Paris, 1982)
  • M.-J. Nadal and G. Bloncourt: La Peinture haïtienne: Haïtian Arts (Paris, 1986)
  • S. Pataki: Haitian Painting: Art and Kitsch (Chicago, 1986)
  • Haïti: Art naïf, art vaudou (Paris, 1988)
  • S. Rodman: Where Art Is Joy: The First Forty Years (New York, 1988)
  • M. P. Lerrebours: Haïti et ses peintres, 2 vols (Port-au-Prince, 1989)
  • A. Fourbet: Voodoo Blacksmiths (New York, 1990)
  • Black Ancestral Legacy (Dallas, TX, Mus. A., 1990), pp. 87–96
  • Déita: Objets au quotidien: Art et culture populaire en Haïti ([Haiti], 1993)
  • A. Gerald and others: 50 Années de peinture en Haïti, 1930–1980, I: 1930–1959 (Port-au-Prince, 1995)
  • Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou (exh. cat., ed. D. J. Cosentino; Los Angeles, CA, Fowler Mus. Cult. Hist., 1995)
  • V. Poupeye: Caribbean Art (London, 1998)

V. Patronage and art institutions.

  • Dolores M. Yonker

An infrastructure to provide opportunities for training and sale did not develop beyond the rudimentary stage until the second half of the 20th century. During the colonial period the taste of wealthy planters for luxuries and decorative objects created a market for these arts, but most of it was probably from abroad. Fire, pillage and earthquakes have destroyed the evidence to support this belief, however. Foreign artists also often served as teachers. The Church, usually a source of dependable patronage, was entirely absent from Haiti during the 19th century until the Concordat of 1860, which strengthened the bond between Rome and the Haitian government and church. Some political leaders believed that the presence of art and artists was essential as an index of civilization. Henri Christophe summoned the English artist Richard Evans (1784–1871) to establish an academy of painting and drawing at the Palais de Sans Souci, Milot, and to plan for including painting and drawing in the schools. At the same time, in southern Haiti from 1807 to 1818, Alexandre Pétion authorized the purchase of French works more in keeping with his Francophile taste, and he encouraged French painters, particularly J. Barincou, to establish an art school in Port-au-Prince; he also ordered that the visual arts be included in the school curriculum. Most commissions to Haitian artists were for portraits, although there were a few of historic themes and fewer still of landscapes. From time to time such Haitian painters as Baron Colbert de Lochard (1804–74), appointed court painter to Emperor Faustin Soulouque (reg 1849–59), created grand historic tableaux for public edification. Unfortunately, public buildings were often the victim of the most violent eruptions; when they were destroyed, works of art inside also suffered the same fate.

Developments in the 20th century included the foundation of the Académie de Peinture et de Dessin in 1915 by Archibald Lochard (1837–1923) and Normil Charles (who also opened the Académie de Peinture et Sculpture after 1927). There is little evidence of the existence of an art museum in Haiti previous to the museum attached to the Bureau of Ethnology, founded in 1941 by Jacques Romain (1907–44), Haitian ethnologist, poet, novelist, journalist and diplomat. In 1944 the Centre d’Art was established in Port-au-Prince, offering both exhibition facilities and classes. By 1947 it had mounted 40 exhibitions of pictorial art and one of sculpture, two exhibitions in Cap-Haïtien, one in the USA and one in Paris. A branch of the centre, planned as only the first of five in smaller towns in the country, was opened in 1945 under the directorship of the painter Philomé Obin. In 1958 the Ecole des Beaux Arts was set up in Port-au-Prince. In 1962 the Musée d’Art Haïtien opened under the patronage of the Episcopal College St Pierre. Together the Centre and the museum have organized Haitian representation in European and American museums and galleries. A government-supported Institut National de la Culture et des Arts Haïtiens in Port-au-Prince opened in 1983 with an exhibition of the first generation of Haitian naive artists. Ironically, the support for production of works representing Haitian themes came largely from the USA and Europe: important collections include the Richard and Anna Flagg Collection at the Milwaukee Art Museum, WI; the Davenport Municipal Art Gallery, IA; and the Astrid and Halvor Jaeger private collection in Neu-Ulm, Germany. The Musée d’Art Haïtien in Port-au-Prince retains a foundation collection, as formed by its late Director, Pierre Monosiet.

See also