Paint my people – Jean Michel Cazabon

The layman painter

In these Cazabon paintings, what do these people signify? Who are they for?

The University of Trinidad and Tobago presented the Research Fellows Series by presenting the study of the Jean Michel Cazabon’s work by writer, Lawrence Scott at the National Library in Port of Spain. Mr Scott’s lengthy lecture attempted to place the times, period and association of Cazabon though samples of his paintings and by references by other artists who represented the Caribbean and the Negro as a classification of a people far removed from the European whites. A few of Cazabon’s images from the presentation, Scott says they have never been seen in public before. Michel-Jean Cazabon is regarded as the first noble Trinidad painter and an artist who studied the Masters in England and France.

Caslabon relied on nature to expose the vistas which the plains of the Caroni and the tropical forests at Chagaramas are idyllic in spender. His portraits of the mulattoes, indenture Indians and Negroes where the bases of debate, and whether the painter immortalized these people because he felt a personal bond with them rather less than the European Creoles which no stately portraits were ever recorded. Michel-Jean Cazabon was a recorder of the historic landmarks and common society of Trinidad from 1850 till his death in 1888.

In conclusion, the lecture harped as an analytical parody on the nuances of language and visual interpretation to conjure some sort of meaning in Cazabon’s work, rather than observing it for what is was. The discussion over the role of people set on the mount of Laventille hill and particularly of a man showing another man a panoramic view of capital seemed trivial to analyze. Cazabon was determined to represent his people in a positive light as their attire represented their best Sunday garb. Yet, harsher criticism of Cazabon pertains to his alcoholism, his mediocre renditions and of his use of (stick people) as a prop which were placed in his work to give it some sort of composition.

Under the Academy for Arts, Letters, Culture and Public Affairs, Lawrence Scott’s paper will be published by the University along with a DVD relating to the thesis. A collection of Jean Michel Cazabon’s watercolours can be seen at the National Muesum of Trinidad and Tobago.

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