9 Jamaican Painters Of Note

Jamaica is well know for its art and artists.  Here are 9 painters you should know.

1. Barrington Watson

‘Washer Women’

Born in Lucea, Hanover in 1931, Watson was a star footballer while attending Kingston College. In fact, he was so good that he made the national team. His early artistic expression was via the Christmas cards he designed that were sold in his father’s pharmacy. At 20, he moved to England, where he eventually became the first black and the first West Indian person to attend the Royal College of Art in London, graduating with honours.

Watson is considered by many to be Jamaica’s master painter. Upon his return to Jamaica in 1961, he helped to shape the country’s artistic identity in the post-Independence period. He was awarded the gold Musgrave Medal by the Institute of Jamaica in 2000, and conferred with two national honours – the Order of Distinction, Commander Class (1984) and the Order of Jamaica (2006). He died this past January, aged 85. His notable works include: ‘Mother and Child’ (1958-1959), ‘Washer Women’ (1966), ‘Athlete’s Nightmare II’ (1966), and ‘Conversation’ (1981).

2. Albert Huie

'Portrait of Edna Manley'
‘Portrait of Edna Manley’ (Kyle Macpherson)

Another of Jamaica’s master painters, Huie was born in Falmouth, Trelawny, in 1920. He was not formally trained as a painter, but said he started painting in his teens and began earning a living from his work through small commissions from haberdashery merchants in downtown Kingston. He eventually became part of the Institute Group at the Institute of Jamaica, where he received his first formal training, and later attended the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts in London and the Ontario College of Art in Canada.

Huie worked as an assistant to Edna Manley, respected sculptor and wife of Norman Manley, Jamaica’s first premier, and she was one of his early admirers. They not only shared a healthy artistic bond but were co-founders of the Jamaica School of Arts and Crafts (later the Jamaica School of Art) in 1950. His ‘Portrait of Edna Manley’ was Huie’s tribute to Manley, who died in 1987. At the height of his creative powers, Huie staged exhibitions in the United States, Canada, Cuba and England. A showing at the Brandywine Workshop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 2004, was one of his last major exhibitions. Huie died in January 2010, aged 89. His other popular works include ‘Crop Time’ (1955) and the controversial nude painting ‘Miss Mahogany’ (1960).

3. John Dunkley

‘Banana Plantation’ (National Gallery of Jamaica)

Dunkley, born in Savanna-la-Mar in 1891, is another highly regarded master painter and sculptor. Fewer than 50 of his paintings are known, and his work spans little more than a decade.

Most of his paintings are imagined landscapes, full of hidden symbolism. His work was characterised by fantastical vegetation and small animals. His famous works include ‘Back to Nature’ (1939), ‘Diamond Wedding’ (1940), and ‘Banana Plantation’ (1945). He died in February 1947.