One of the greatest ‘naive’ painters
By Charles Arthur – The Haiti Support Group – 7 August, 2001
Considered one of the best of Haiti’s first generation of so-called ‘naive’ artists, Alexandre Gregoire died at his home in the southern coastal town of Jacmel at the age of 78 years. The painter, whose works now command four figure sums in US galleries, spent most of his adult life in the army, and did not turn to painting until late in life.
He was born in Jacmel, a once thriving coffee port in southern Haiti, on August 29, 1922, and his primary schooling from 1930-37 was with the Christian Teaching Brothers. For two years, he studied cabinet making at the Jacmel vocational school, but then in 1939 he joined the army, where he played the tuba and saxophone in the army band. In the 1950s, during the presidency of Paul Magloire, Gregoire left the army and joined the band at the National Palace.
It was not until 1968 that his interest turned from music to painting. At the urging of his friends, the painters, Préfete Duffaut and Pierre-Joseph Valcin, and with encouragement from the Centre d’Art in Port-au-Prince, Gregoire soon developed a unique style. His oil on canvas paintings featured humourous and playful representations of both historical scenes and everyday life. In an interview with Michele Grandjean for the book “Artistes en Haiti”, Gregoire said, “My life is a prayer and the painting is a sister to the prayer.”
His work is included in the permanent collections of the Musée d’Art Haitien in Port-au-Prince, the Waterloo Museum of Art in Iowa, and the Milwaukee Art Center. In 1997, his paintings featured in Island on Fire, an exhibition of Haitian art collection of Hollywood film producer, Jonathan Demme, at the Equitable Gallery, New York.
* Alexandre Gregoire, painter, born August 29, 1922; died July 28 2001