Louisiane Saint-Fleurant

1924Petit-Trou-de-Nippes, Haïti | 2005Pétion-Ville, Haïti

Haitian painter and sculptor.

Louisiane Saint-Fleurant began painting and sculpting on the cusp of her 50th year and continued working until her sight failed at the age of 80. She moved to Pétion-Ville, on the hills above Port-au-Prince, when she was 18, to work as a domestic in Haitian households. In 1971, while working as a cook for the painter and writer Maud Robart (1946-), she met Jean-Claude Garoute, aka Tiga (1935-2006), a multidisciplinary artist who castigated the American market’s blatant, unbridled commercialisation of “naïve” painting and advocated the rehabilitation of humanity through the creative process. He unleashed L. Saint-Fleurant’s creative potential, encouraging her to let her imagination roam free by means of drawing, painting and pottery.
In 1972 L. Saint-Fleurant accompanied the couple when they moved to Soissons-la-Montagne, an isolated village located on the hillside 50 km outside Port-au-Prince, where Tiga and M. Robert supported a popular cross-disciplinary community arts school by supplying local residents with materials. This was to mark the launch of the Saint-Soleil Movement and by the same token L. Saint-Fleurant’s personal career, as she was the only female painter in the group and one of the rare working-class Haitian painters to win international recognition.

Her colourful paintings of motherhood, featuring women and children surrounded by flora and fauna, together with the figures she sculpted in vibrantly hued clay, opened up a female perspective on the Saint-Soleil Movement and voodoo, setting her apart from the other artists in the group.
In 1974 the inaugural exhibition of Saint-Soleil at the Haitian Museum of Art, in the College of Saint-Pierre in Port-au-Prince, cemented the reputation of these artists. The ensuing visit of André Malraux in late 1975 gave the movement the art world’s seal of approval as well as an international scope. Entranced by the artists’ magical works, A. Malraux went so far as to alter his forthcoming book, The Metamorphosis of the Gods, by removing the chapter devoted to Goya in favour of the painters of Saint-Soleil. Following his death in 1976, the artists of Saint-Soleil travelled in a ritual procession to the cemetery of Verrières-le-Buisson in France to pay tribute to him.

Although L. Saint-Fleurant produced a lineage of artists, many of their lives were tragically cut short, including that of her son Stevenson Magloire (1963-1994), who was stoned to death by the military junta.

In 2010, the local authority at Pétion-Ville bulldozed the cemetery and razed the graves commemorating these artists, including that of L. Saint-Fleurant, in order to build a bus station.
Her work has been shown in numerous exhibitions in Haiti and worldwide. In Port-au-Prince: Institut Français (1979), Centre d’Art (1988), Genre/Générations at the Centre Culturel AfricAmericA (2004), Saint-Soleil, 40 ans après at the Musée du Panthéon National Haïtien (2013) and Vives at the Maison Dufort (2022). In 2006 the Institut Français devoted a retrospective to her. In the United States, her work has been shown at the IMF & World Bank Art Society, Washington (1975), at the Center of Contemporary Art in Miami (1992) and at the Africa Center in New York (1994), and in Paris in Haïti : Art naïf – Art vaudou at the Grand Palais (1988), Haïti, Anges & démons at the Halle Saint-Pierre (2000), Haïti. Deux siècles de création artistique at the Grand Palais (2014). In 2009 at the Musée du Montparnasse, the current headquarters of AWARE, her paintings featured in the exhibition Le dernier voyage d’André Malraux – La découverte de l’art vaudou.

Régine Cuzin

Translated from the French by Caroline Taylor-Bouché.

A biography produced as part of “The Origin of Others” research programme, in partnership with the Clark Art Institute.

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