The visual arts hold a very important place throughout the Caribbean region. While the islands' settlers brought their own arts and crafts, painting, sculpture, and other fine arts from the islands have gained worldwide recognition in more recent years.
Painting and sculpture are inspired by the bright colors of the Caribbean, as well as by the islands' tumultuous histories. However, few Caribbean artists are both born in the Caribbean and spend their lives there.
For example, both John Audubon and Camille Pissaro were born in the Caribbean. Neither stayed in the islands long. Audubon was born on French Hispaniola, the illegitimate child of his father and a mistress, but lived there only until his father brought him home to his stepmother in France. At 18 he moved to the U.S. The Caribbean played little part in his drawing.
Pissarro was born in the then-Danish West Indies on St. Thomas and was sent to Paris to study art at the age of 12. When he returned he was encouraged to draw the tropical scenery and soon became involved in impressionism as he attempted to paint in his own style. Pissarro was not the only European-educated artist to be influenced by the Caribbean. Paul Gauguin himself stayed in Panama working on the canal, and stopped on Martinique.
Puerto Rico was also home to some important artists such as Francisco Oller y Cestero, who was influenced by Cézanne and Picasso. He, in turn, inspired other Puerto Rican artists in his style of capturing the island's people. Puerto Rico is now extremely proud of its artistic heritage.
In more recent years, the Caribbean art world has embraced the islands' African heritage. Many islanders are inspired by the works of Edna Manley, the wife of Jamaica's early leader Norman Manley. Her sculptures generally depict black figures, but she is also known as a painter.
Other modern pieces often work as commentaries on political trials and tribulations, particularly on the islands of Hispaniola (home to Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and Cuba. Each island has its own style of art.
Sculpture has become an important artistic style on many of the English-speaking islands. Meanwhile, paintings offer depictions of characters that only the Caribbean could produce. Regardless of the medium used to depict island life, the joyous lifestyle of the Caribbean is clear in many of the pieces.
With the growth and popularity of Caribbean art, museums and other venues have sprung up across the islands. The Caribbean's art world holds some unexpected surprises.
One such unexpected gem is Anguilla's self-guided "Art Tour of Anguilla." Vacationers can spend time at 15 studios and galleries around the island that showcase local artists who have spent their whole lives on the island, as well as those who have immigrated.
Puerto Rico, too, is extremely proud of its artistic heritage, and is home to a number of museums, including the Smithsonian-affiliated Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico in San Juan. Meanwhile, the El Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico houses many works from throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
Other islands, like Dutch Curacao, also have museums filled with art. The Curacao Museum includes items and art from throughout the island's history. International artists are also featured in the museum. No matter where you turn in the Caribbean you're certain to find a gallery and a welcoming host inviting you to see his or her work.
Island colors are brought to life in watercolor and oil paints. The proud people of the region have worked hard to expand their knowledge, while travelers from around the world settle in the Caribbean to be inspired by the scenery and lifestyle. Caribbean artwork is truly one of a kind.
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