Much of art is derivative, thanks to influences and inspirations, mentorship and the concept of genres. Even the great artists have drawn ideas from a multitude of sources, and among classical writers, allusions to the greats such as Homer and Virgil were considered appropriate tributes.
Nineteenth-century Trinidad artist Michel Jean Cazabon also followed well-trodden paths while also producing remarkable work in his own area of specialty.
While he was best known for his landscapes painted throughout the Caribbean, particularly in his native Trinidad, Cazabon also did a few, now extremely rare paintings of subjects that fell outside that field.
The reasons for this are circumstantial. From 1837-48 he lived in France, where he developed his skills and reputation, said a media release from the Art Society.
During this period his path would have crossed that of Theodore Gudin, who was highly regarded for his marine scenes, particularly those involving naval ships. It is likely that Cazabon may have studied directly under the guidance of Gudin, or at least have been inspired by him.
Evidence of this influence can be seen in Cazabon’s Port dans la Tempete, an oil on canvas from 1840 that depicts the risks involved in shipping operations during very rough weather.
This is comparable to Gudin’s Shipping, France, an 1839 oil-on-wood panel that is set in much more placid conditions off the French coast, and which is typical of Gudin’s ocean scenes, the release said.
Cazabon also produced a few religious paintings. His The Assumption of the Virgin was commissioned by the French Government in 1839, when the young Cazabon (he was born in 1813) was breaking through as an artist.
Students were encouraged, then as now, to go to museums and galleries to study and copy the works of the masters and more established artists. This may have been the case with La Sainte Famille (The Holy Family), Cazabon’s portrayal from 1840, in which the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus adhere to standard depictions and may have been copied from a pre-existing work. Joseph in La Sainte Famille appears more realistic; Cazabon may have used a live human model for this element of the painting.
This work, Port dans la Tempete and Gudin’s Shipping are all on display for Precious Paintings 2021, which is on at the Art Society of TT in Federation Park.
Developed over the course of the year by the show’s organiser, the 101 Art Gallery, Precious Paintings is a unique exhibition of over 200 works of art – including paintings, sculptures and lithographs – by both local and international artists. Many have been sourced at auctions in France, such as the Cazabon paintings, and Belgium, source of the Gudin, as well as Italy, Germany and the US.
Apart from Cazabon and Gudin, Sybil Atteck, Boscoe Holder, Jackie Hinkson, Luise Kimme and Knolly Greenidge are among other major artists whose work is being featured.
The show opens to the public from September 21-25 from 12.30 pm-6 pm Tuesday-Friday and 10 am-2 pm on Saturday. Artists, students and lovers of the work of Cazabon are encouraged to view the show.
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