Top, from left:
Bazile, S-E Bottex
Bottom, from left: J-E Gourgue, Philom� Obin, Bazile, Pr�f�te Duffaut
Ned Hopkins's Collection of Haitian Art
In July 1972 my companion and I suddenly found ourselves with time for a vacation. Since our passports had expired, our choice of destinations outside the United States was limited. The Caribbean was among the possibilities. She wanted to relax at a beach resort; I wanted to visit a place that held some historical interest. We compromised on Guadeloupe and Ha�ti.
Prior to arriving in Port-au-Prince I read up on Ha�ti. Though my familiarity with painting was then limited to an undergraduate 'art appreciation' course and visits to museums in Europe, I was intrigued by accounts � in guidebooks � of the country's 'self-taught' artists. Even before landing at Fran�ois Duvalier International Airport, I had resolved to buy something if I found a work I liked.
I liked a lot. In the three galleries I visited, I liked eleven paintings well enough to buy and to haul back to New York City, our home at the time. Packed in jerry-built cardboard cases, the works accompanied us as excess baggage and arrived without incident.
On subsequent visits I returned with well over 100 paintings � similarly packed and carried as baggage � to New York and to airports near my homes in Albany, New York, Washington, D C, Miami, and San Francisco; only one was damaged in any way.
I decided, after that first visit, that I would specialize in Ha�tian painting. It was a large enough world to have much variety, I reasoned, but small enough that I could collect works from most of its schools � an impossibility with, say, French or American art. That
its artists were relatively inexpensive was also a consideration, and not a small one.
Among the eleven I bought on my first trip, five remain among my favorites � works by Montas Antoine, Kesnel Franklin, Jacques-Enguerrand Gourgue, Louines Mentor, and Petion Savain. Though I visited Ha�ti two dozen more times after 1972, and bought paintings on each trip, I doubt the average quality of those purchases was greater than that of my initial buys � except when I picked up works I had commissioned from such masters as Rigaud Benoit, Philom� Obin, and Gourgue himself.
That first visit was memorable for two other reasons: an evening and dinner spent with the fine artist Nehemy Jean and an enduring friendship formed with a chauffeur-guide who, like so many of his countrymen, is now in the U S.
I have not, alas, been back to Ha�ti since 1990. Because I'd been accosted in a couple of incidents that could have ended very badly � and because the violence that has plagued the country since the overthrow of Jean-Claude ('Baby Doc') Duvalier in 1986 has often ended very badly indeed � I've stayed away from a country I had come to love.
I have, however, continued acquiring
Ha�tian paintings from galleries in the U S and the Caribbean, from
other collectors, and �
until his death in the late '90s � from a dealer who visited once a
year. (Amazingly, he was on the first plane to land in San Francisco following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.)
� Each work on the artist pages is linked to an enlargement which may be seen by clicking on the painting.
� A florette (_) next to the title of a painting indicates that a photograph of the artist appears alongside the enlargement of that work.
� A star (H) next to an artist's name indicates that I commissioned one or more works from him. Those pieces are identified in my narrative.
size of each work on an artist page is geared to its width,
� A title in 'quote marks' was supplied by the artist or a gallery owner, or is painted on the front or written on the back of the work.
� Some of the photographs of paintings are bad. As time permits I will replace them.
� Some of the the photographs of artists come from the websites of galleries, notably Macondo and Medalia. My thanks to all.
� Vodou is also spelled vodon and � less justifiably � voodoo, voudon, etc. Most terms associated with the practice, or belief, have both Kr�yol (Creole) and Frenchified forms: e.g., lwa/loa, ounf�/humfor, oungan/houngan. I use mostly the Kr�yol versions.
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