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Caribbean Culture Shows Through In Paintings
As one of the most important aspects of Caribbean culture, visual arts are often surprisingly overlooked. And as more and more artists from the region attract international acclaim and attention, the unique style of Caribbean painters is becoming accessible to wider and more diverse audiences.
Music and literature typically represent Caribbean art forms, with big names such as musician Bob Marley and poet Derek Walcott leading the pack. But painting is growing as a recognized form of expression. Colorful depictions of island life are especially popular in Cuba, Haiti, and Jamaica.
About the Islands
The Caribbean has always inspired through its unique sights and sounds. The bright colors of the region's landscapes and vibrant personalities of its people are particularly strong artistic motivators. Fine works of art can be found on islands throughout the Caribbean, including Barbados, Jamaica, Martinique, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba.
Cuba's Wilfredo Lam was one of the first Caribbean artists to gain worldwide recognition in the early 1900s. His association with both Picasso and Georges Braque added to his success. The popularity of Lam quickly turned the art world's attention toward the entire region.
More recently, the Internet has also helped catch the eye of art aficionados by allowing people to view artists' works online. Art appreciators no longer must catch a plane or physically travel to a gallery or museum that features Caribbean artists.
Still, fine works of art from many countries throughout the Caribbean make popular souvenirs for those who do visit the islands. Travelers enjoy picking up these fine pieces and, luckily for U.S. travelers, fine arts are not included in the customs allowance for travelers returning to the United States from the Caribbean.
Caribbean art history does contain a few surprises for some. Two famous artists, Camille Pissarro and John Audubon, were born in the Caribbean. Although their styles are not typical of the region, they have been influential in the development of Caribbean art.
Pissarro was born on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, then at the age of 12 he moved to France. After he completed school, Pissarro returned to St. Thomas. Upon his later return to Paris, Pissarro became very influential among Impressionist painters. Similarly, John Audubon was born in Haiti and moved to France at a young age. His study of birds, however, began after his later move to America.
Europe may only lay claim to some of the influences behind Caribbean artwork. African and Latin American styles are also strongly represented. Both use of color and stylization show the influences of the region's particular people.
While fine Caribbean art can be found on many islands, Cuban arts have been flourishing since the beginning of the 20th century with the help of Wilfredo Lam, and the political strife on Haiti and Cuba in particular have provided artists the opportunity to express complex emotions and political beliefs through their paintings.
For anyone who craves visual art that is unique and refreshing, the beautiful works of Caribbean painters are a breath of fresh air. Artists who use the Caribbean's one-of-a-kind scenery and lifestyle as the basis for their art provide a new and creative way to view paradise.
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