Selden Rodman

Where art is joy : Haitian art, the first forty years

Ruggles de Latour

New York, 1988

bibliothèque insulaire

peintres des îles
Where art is joy : Haitian art, the first forty years / Selden [Cary] Rodman. - New York : Ruggles de Latour, 1988. - 236 p. : ill. ; 31 cm.
ISBN 0-938291-01-7

Rodman, who has written about Haiti for many years, has now completed the most comprehensive work to date on the art of that island. His text documents the rise of modern Haitian art in, for the most part, chronological fashion. (…) This publication recounts the history of this period in more detail, as it includes descriptions of major works by seventy-six individuals, accompanied by stories of Rodman's personal encounters with a number of them.


African Arts, 24/1, Jan. 1991 [en ligne]

From its beginning in the mid-forties with the discovery of Hector Hyppolite and Philome Obin, to its fourth flowering in 1987 with the painters of Saint-Soleil becoming dominant, Haitian art has been consistently surprising : a wonder of the world.

In no other country has a school of self-taught painters and sculptors reigned supreme, renewing itself year after year. Not even in Africa have black artists created so many unforgettable images to haunt and revivify the tired iconography of the West. How to explain the paradox that an art of joy originated and sustains itself in the poorest nation of the Western Hemisphere ? A blend of African and French cultures, inspired by both the Vodou and Christian religions, Haitian life has a unique quality, timeless yet electric. Close to nature, close to his family, close to his gods, the Haitian farmer still leads a life little influenced by the fashions and the inventions of the twentieth century.

Some of Haiti's greatest artists, Hector Hyppolite, Andre Pierre, and Lafortune Felix were first houngans (vodou priests). All of the Saint-Soleil artists, first hailed by André Malraux in 1977, say they are in constant contact with the loas (African Spirits), as was their progenitor, Robert St. Brice. The dark side of the religion, so well captured by the macabre images of Enguerrand Gourgue and Edgar Jean-Baptiste, is a force every Haitian must reckon with.

The simplicity of everyday life, transformed into poetry by Philome Obin and the Cap-Haitian school, gives to each Haitian a sense of place in this world just as the Vodou religion assures him a place in the cosmos. Ongoing life that neglects neither the body nor the spirit … that is the joy of Haitian art.

  • « Renaissance in Haiti : popular painters in the Black Republic », New York : Pellegrini & Cudahy, 1948
  • « The miracle of Haitian art », New York : Doubleday, 1974

mise-à-jour : 29 novembre 2012