Vital, PauleusH (1917–86)

55. Scène rurale_
1980 (16x12)

   I semi–commissioned this work. In December 1980 I visited Vital at his home across the riverQ from Jacmel. He had just begun a sketch of this painting. I 'reserved' it on the spot, returning a couple of days later to pick it up. As I did, an Englishwoman I'd met at the Pension Kraft took the photograph that's next to the thumbnail's enlargement.
   Pauleus Vital, a half–brother of Prêféte Duffaut and distant cousin of Théard Aladin, is a 'first generation' artist. His works have been exhibited worldwide and are featured in many books.

Q  The resident American whose car led mine out of Jacmel warned me that, because of my inexperience, I would likely stall as I tried to ford the stream. I didn't; he did. Since I had three lovely young women in my rented — 'location' — car, it was great fun. (It's a guy thing.)
    Several weeks later one of those ladies was sweet enough to send me, from London, a Paris Vogue reprint. It featured — in an extensive piece on Haïti, Haitian art, and Jean-Claude and Michele Bennet Duvalier — a reproduction of Louisiane St–Fleurant's Erzulie Dantor, a work I had bought in Cap–Haïtien a few days after our adventure, and about which I had told her in one of our Jacmel–Le Cap phone calls.



     Zéphirin, Frantz (1966–   )

205. The Discovery of America_
1989 (24x20)


   Frantz Zéphirin is among the most interesting of 'third generation' Haitian artists. He began painting when he was no more than eight years old, having studied under his uncle, Antoine Obin.
   Zéphirin was soon hawking his works to tourists visiting Cap–Haïtien on the cruise ships that called regularly during the relatively calm years of Jean–Claude {Baby Doc) Duvalier's 1971–86 regime.
   He soon moved, however, not only from Le Cap to the capital, but also in directions Antoine and his father, Philomé Obin, would neither have understood nor liked. A stern Baptist, his grandfather would surely have disdained the vodou elements that figure prominently in much of what Zéphirin now paints. But the old man would certainly have approved the protest against oppression and poverty that motivates much of the artist's work.
   Zéphirin's mature works betray a heavy debt to surrealism. He often features or incorporates anthropomorphic figures. In a broadcast interview the artist explained that 'there is an animal in each of us. Some are cats, some snakes. I try to show the relationship….'

   Two weeks after the devastating 2010 earthquake, a Zéphirin painting was the cover of the New Yorker magazine (see right). Prints of that cover are — or were — available from Galerie Macondo ( Zéphirin often visits that gallery — and paints while there — and is a friend of its owner, Bill Bollendorf.
   The Discovery of America is one of the more interesting Zéphirins I've seen. Salvador Dali's treatment of the same subject — a signed lithograph, 212/300, hangs in my garage — celebrates Christopher Columbus. Zéphirin's mourns the tragedy about to overtake the Amerinds. I like the Zéphirin better. (Zéphirin himself provided the painting's date after viewing this website.)

'The Resurrection of the Dead'
Zéphirin's 25 January 2010
New Yorker cover


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