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Philome Obin

 (1892 - 1986)
Philome Obin was active/lived in Haiti.  Philome Obin is known for naive style genre, history painting of Haiti.

Philome Obin

Biography from the Archives of askART

Philome Obin, born in 1892, was a painter and muralist in naive, folk-art style of street scenes, Haitian history, allegory, native figures and genre.  He is credited as largely responsible for the flowering of Haitian Art since 1945, and is described by some critics as "the greatest of all Haitian artists."

He was born in Cap-Haitien and took drawing lessons as a child.  Many of his early paintings were on cardboard or masonite, and were unappreciated by the general public who looked more to the 'sophisticated' art of France.  By 1944, the artist was desperate because of his commitment to art and the lack of response he was receiving.  However, the next year, he got the attention of Dewitt Peters, an American artist who was a Quaker and pacifist, and who had established the Centre d'Art in Port-au Prince, Haiti's capital as an alternative to doing military service for the American government. 

Peters responded positively to a portrait of Franklin Roosevelt that Obin had submitted to him, and seeing some very unique talent and realizing that likely other talented artists were in the country, determined to cultivate and encourage native Haitian art.  He sent Obin payment for the portrait, "by far the largest he had ever received."  Subsequently Obin did three other portraits of Roosevelt, one with Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin, and another of an "angelic Roosevelt interceding in heaven for the unity of the Americas."  He also continued to send paintings to the Center, and his reputation grew tremendously as did his 'pocketbook'.  By the 1970s, he was painting only on commission because so many people were seeking him out.

Obin and Peters became close friends, and Obin became the Director of the Cap-Haitien branch of the Center d'Art.  In this position, he inspired a generation of younger artists to paint subjects of their own culture including his children, Antoine Obin and Telemaque Obin, and grandchildren Claude Obine, Michaelle Obin, Henry-Claude Obin, Harisson Obin and Donald Obin.  Philome Obin, who "was a bit of a lothario", married twice, and also had children by several women beside his wives. 

In the early 1980s, he visited the capitals of Europe and then America.  In New York, he received much positive attention including by Rosalind Jeffries of the Museum of Modern Art.  He said that he regretted not doing that travel earlier:  "I'm too old now; I won't be able to do it again." 

He died in 1986.


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Self Portrait with Blue Eyes

About  Philome Obin

Born:  1892 - Cap-Haitien, Haiti
Died:   1986 - Cap-Haitien, Haiti
Known for:  naive style genre, history painting of Haiti