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Jamaican Art Since the Thirties

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 1969
Published by: Contemporary Jamaican Artists’ Association/Spelman College
Year published: 1969

image of Jamaican Art Since the Thirties

“… the art of Jamaica is not yet Jamaican art. Only time and sensitivity on the part of the artist can create Jamaican art.”

Hugely important catalogue for Jamaican Art Since the Thirties, an exhibition held at Spelman College, the historically Black women’s college in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. The exhibition, which featured some 35 artists, mainly painters, was shown from 9 November - 10 December 1969. The exhibiting artists reflected the various routes that the practitioners had taken to the establishment of their careers. A number had studied under the pioneer of Jamaican Art, Edna Manley. Others had trained in leading art schools in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere. And yet others had undertaken the substantial parts of their training at the art school in Kingston Jamaica, which was eventually to be named after Edna Manley. In this regard, the exhibition was a reflection of the almost infinite international aspects that underpinned Jamaican Art. In contrast to those artists who had travelled for their training, and those who had undertaken studies in Kingston, there were those self-taught artists who would in time come to be referred to as intuitives.

The exhibition was one of the first introductions to Jamaican Art that was to travel outside of the island. In time, several such exhibitions would be organised. A number of the artists in this exhibition went on to further enhance their reputations as important practitioners. Others, such as Corah Hamilton Eaton, Dorit Hutson, and Lloyd Van Pitterson would in due course become relatively obscure figures in the history of Jamaican art. The title of the exhibition referenced the idea that Jamaican art could be dated back to the second or third decade of the 20th century. That was the time period during which Edna Manley travelled to set up a home and studio in Jamaica, as a young artist and wife of the great Jamaican leader Norman Washington Manley.

The work in the exhibition was overwhelmingly figurative, and reflected the vigorous nature and multiplicity of social and artistic concerns of practitioners from, and living in, this Caribbean nation that had, at the time of the exhibition, been independent for only some seven years.

The work in the exhibition was drawn from a variety of collections such as the Institute of Jamaica, Olympia Hotel, Mr. A. D. Scott, Spelman College, etc. The exhibition came with this hugely important catalogue, featuring a major text by the African-American scholar Edmund B. Gaither, and a Preface by John Davis Hatch, Advisor in Art and Professor  of American Art History at Spelman. It was this Preface that made mention of the works in the exhibition ranging “in date from 1935 to the present, including slightly over half a dozen artists (sic) works which were done in the provincial style which continued through the 1950’s. Most of the works were executed in the 1960’s when a greater number of artists were trained abroad.”

Gaither opened his Introduction with, “The foreign critic who visits Jamaica will be pleasantly surprised, for in spite of its youthfulness, the island state is teeming with artistic activity.” Amply reflecting the difficulties and pitfalls of terminology, Gaither concludes his essay with, “In summary, the art of Jamaica is not yet Jamaican art. Only time and sensitivity on the part of the artist can create Jamaican art.”

This particular copy had had the typographical errors in the main essay corrected by black marker. The back inside cover of the catalogue contained an invaluable bibliography of references to published texts on Jamaican art that came out in the 1950s and 1960s, up to June 1969.

Contents as follows:

Preface, John Davis Hatch, Advisor in Art and Professor  of American Art History, Spelman College

A note From the Contemporary Jamaican Artists’ Association, by A. D. Scott, Chairman; and Acknowledgements, by E. B. G. (likely to be Edmund B. Gaither).

List of Lenders

Introduction: Edmund B. Gaither

Catalog: Paintings, then Sculpture


The catalogue is widely illustrated with monochrome reproductions of selected artists’ work. Each artist is represented by brief biographical outlines.

Related people + view all 35

»  Trevor Burrowes

Born, 1937 in Jamaica

»  John Dunkley

Born, 1886 - 1896 (probably 1891) in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland, Jamaica. Died, 1947

»  Kapo (Mallica Reynolds)

Born, 1911 in St. Catherine, Jamaica. Died, 1989

»  Barrington Watson

Born, 1931 in Lucea, Jamaica. Died, 2016

Related exhibitions

Related venues

»  Spelman College

Atlanta, United States of America