Last update: 08-Dec-2013 11:57 pm
Monday, December 09, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Celebrating T&T’s ‘first artist’
Celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of San Fernando-born 19th-century artist Michel Jean Cazabon will take place today at the San Fernando Hill.
Organised by the Cazabon Bicentenary Committee, and hosted by the President’s Office, an exhibition of Cazabon’s lithographs and watercolours will be on display at the San Fernando Hill Auditorium, while the committee reveals its logo and several items planned for the year-long commemoration.
Andy Jacob, a member of the committee, said Cazabon was an important figure in the history of Trinidad.
“He is an important part of our lives, and we have to commemorate our first artist.”
Conservationist and feature speaker for Friday’s short reception Geoffrey MacLean said it was important to immortalise Cazabon’s work, as his pictures were a testament to T&T’s heritage and legacy.
MacLean pioneered the rediscovery of Cazabon’s work and has written extensively about him.
“The importance of his work is really and truly that he has given us vivid images of a 19th-century Trinidad.”
Cazabon’s work included river scenes, landscapes, seascapes and some portraits, and MacLean said it captured Trinidad in a way that would show us how it was, and still is in many instances.
“The images of the people in T&T were sensitively drawn and show an elegance, and a racial mix of all the different people.”
He said it was important to note that Cazabon came from a very interesting and unique background. Born in Corinth, San Fernando in 1813, Cazabon came from a family of free coloured people from Martinique who settled in Trinidad.
Describing him as “very sophisticated” and one of the “first real Trinidadians,” MacLean said Cazabon attended boarding school in England and studied art in Paris.
“He was extremely well-educated and his level of sophistication was enormous.”
The third Lord Harris, Trinidad’s 11th British governor, was a patron of Cazabon, who made lithographs of the scenes of the island commissioned by Harris.
They were published in 1851 in an album called View of Trinidad.
Harris’s descendants still own the family seat Belmont House in Kent, where in 1998 MacLean discovered an album of Cazabons in the attic.
In July this year an anniversary celebration was held, where the T&T High Commissioner in London, Garvin Nicholas, together with the Belmont Trust, hosted an exhibition of Cazabon’s works at Belmont House.
Jacob said what set Cazabon apart from any other painters at the time was his inclusive portrayal of Trinidad people and places. He said Cazabon was democratic in his view of society when choosing what to capture.
“He went all over the country, far and wide. He was the first to give a visual encapsulation of what it meant to be Trinidadian. He had a clear sense of the multi-ethnic and varied place Trinidad was at that point.”
The committee is also planning a tree-planting ceremony in Cazabon’s honour at the Botanical Gardens (yet to be confirmed), and another location in San Fernando.
“This will establish a permanent memorial for him.”
Other activities planned for the year include an art competition for primary and secondary school students, publication of a coffee-table book of Cazabon’s work, a video documentary, an original musical composition, as well as a major exhibition for the public to view.
• Cazabon died at his easel in Port-of-Spain in 1888.
• Citizens for Conservation has restored Cazabon’s grave at Lapeyrouse Cemetery, Port-of-Spain.
• His descendants include the musician Andre Tanker and his brother, the artist Peter Shim.
• The National Museum owns a selection of Cazabon’s watercolours, which are on public display.
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