Wilson Bigaud, born in a poor family in 1931, was a giant of Haitian art.
Bigaud initially preferred to sculpt in clay. At around age 18, U.S. artist DeWitt Peters discouraged Bigaud from this pursuit and encouraged him to become a painter. Within a year of studying at Peters’ Centre d’Art, initially under Maurice Borno, Bigaud became a sensation. His “Earthly Paradise,” painted when he was 21, is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York.
The same year, he painted the Episcopal Cathedral of Sainte Trinité’s “The Wedding of Cana” murals, which are considered to have been his masterpiece. In these massive murals, he transferred the biblical conversion of water into wine to a Haitian setting that depicted miracles he had witnessed at Vodou ceremonies. The murals were destroyed by the earthquake of January 12, 2010, and Bigaud’s death, soon thereafter seemed like a double calamity to many Haitians.
The most distinguishing aspect of Bigaud’s art is his entire oeuvre. His tableaux took everyday Haitian life, lovingly chronicled it and “bathed it in a golden light.” Although Bigaud was born in Port-au-Prince, he spent most of his life about 40 miles southwest of the capital in the village of Vialet, near the town of Petit-Goâve. He would often be seen wearing a characterist straw hat for his walks in the country. He would hike little trails, talk to villagers and return home to paint his day. His prolific output celebrates virtually all aspects of Haitian life in his time, including the animals, vegetation, artifacts, people of all ages and professions, cities, villages, beaches, customs such as hunting and fishing, and occasions like carnivals and Vodou ceremonies.
Dady Chery, Editor
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Copyright © 2012, 2013 by Dady Chery. All Rights Reserved. Dady Chery is a journalist, playwright, essayist and poet, who writes in English, French and her native Creole. She is the Editor of Haiti Chery.
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