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Friday, April 07, 2006

Carl Abrahams, Unique and significant Caribbean artist.

For the National Gallery In Jamaica


After making a living as an artist for over 77 years, Jamaican artist Carl Abrahams died on April 10, 2005, was buried April 19, 2005, at the St Andrew Parish Church in Kingston, Jamaica.
Born in 1911, he started his career as a cartoonist at the age of 17.
The Gleaner Company, among other publications at the time, embraced his early talent as a cartoonist, before he crossed over into full-time painting.
At the urging of renowned British painter Augustus John, Abrahams began painting in 1937. But it was not until the mid-1950s that he found his true mode of expression - ironic transformations of the great mythological and religious themes - says a release from the National Gallery.
In the mid-1970s he responded to the Gallery's solicitations and presented The Passion of Christ, an exhibition of approximately 20 works on the final days of the Lord's ministry.
According to the Gallery "the wit and sheer inventiveness of the series coupled with the devout sentiment of a true believer marked Abrahams as Jamaica and the Caribbean's finest religious painter."
His final decades saw few new developments in his work and he replicated many of his earlier paintings in copies and variations. Abrahams died at home Sunday, April 10, marking the end of an era in Jamaican art.
During his lifetime, he received many national honours including the Order of Distinction and the Gold Musgrave Medal, additionally two of his religious works were featured on Jamaican stamps, marking the advent of the third millennium.
His painting Woman I Must Be About My Father's Business was loaned to the City of Edingburgh's Light of the World exhibition in commemoration of the 2000th anniversary of Christ's birth.


May 2005, the National Gallery of Jamaica will pay yet another tribute to one of the most revered of Jamaican artists, Carl Abrahams.
In commemoration of his life and work the National Gallery will host a special exhibition displaying some of the late artist's most significant works, including Adam and Eve, Thirteen Israelites, The Henry Ford Show, Pan and His Musicians, Backyard Preacher, The Hand of Columbus, The Destruction of Port Royal, The Last Supper and The Ascension.

Carl Abrahams is regarded as one of Jamaica's greatest pioneer artists. His recognition has been hard-won, possibly because he started his artistic career as a newspaper cartoonist.
Cartoonists or caricaturists are rarely taken seriously as fine artists, and so it was a long time before his talents were fully developed or appreciated.
Like so many schoolboys, Abrahams took up caricaturing his schoolmasters while in his teens at Calabar College. He also liked to draw automobiles (the rage of that era) and emulated his father who created car designs. It was a schoolboy talent that he was reluctant to outgrow and he continued it as a profession as cartoonist for The Gleaner Newspaper.
Visitors to the National Gallery will be able to see some of these early cartoons, including Mr Molesworth Judging the All-Island Competition (1938) and a cartoon of the late Andrew Hope, art critic for The Gleaner.
However, encouraged by his headmaster, Rev. Ernest Price, he also began copying old master paintings and documented local Jamaican scenes. He became fascinated with spiritual and mythical topics and tried to depict the scenes he visualised from his reading of the Bible and Greek classics. These are the themes that he would return to repeatedly during his long career as an artist.


Abrahams' paintings are highly collectible, and he has earned his popularity with Jamaican art lovers because of an endearing style that meets the viewers' needs for narrative representation, but with imagery that also appears modern. The combination of simplified forms, dark outlines, bold and acidic colours easily distinguish his painting. It is stylised but not stylish. Sometimes combined with frames that are hand-crafted and seductively ornate, his choice of subject matter, his sardonic wit, and his idiosyncratic style confirm that Abrahams is a unique and significant Caribbean artist.

Courtesy of The Jamaica Observer & The Daily Gleaner.

Posted by jebratt :: Friday, April 07, 2006 :: 0 comments

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