Obin, Philome (Haitian, 1892 - 1986)



A recognized master in Haitian art history, Obin was born in Cap-Haïtien, where he developed a personal style inspired by this region of northern Haiti. Rendered with precise and meticulous attention to the details of street life, the mountains, village architecture, and its colonial past, it is distinctive as “The Obin style.”

Philomé Obin was a devout Protestant. He received rudimentary instruction in drawing at a young age and produced his first known work—a watercolor of a young man hunting—when he was seventeen years old. He painted on and off with no recognition for over forty years. By the time he sent a painting to DeWitt Peters in 1944, Obin was over fifty-years-old.

The “Obin style” is often described as “magical pseudo-realism.” It is characterized by rows of peak-roofed townhouses with protective overhangs, elongated shuttered doors with long iron hooks, and tiny simplified figures in the foreground.

Obin saw everything precisely as it was: the mountains behind Cap-Haïtien, the glaring sun in the streets, the coffee-colored Capois elite, the arcades, and the iron balconies. He depicted the bearded, turn of the century revolutionaries with their flashing black eyes returning from the hills on their white horses to take advantage of the latest political crisis. He represented the Cacos—the name given to the Haitian rebels during Haiti’s U.S. occupation, 1915-1934—putting up courageous battles against the U.S. Marines. He saw inspiration in the Catholic convents, Masonic lodges, Mardi Gras masqueraders, and military parades.

In 1938 the Masonic Lodge at Limonade paid him six dollars for a group of heraldic panels. In 1943 Obin painted several religious pictures for Masonic Lodge No. 6, and in 1944 he sent President Elie Lescot a painting of Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin, an unacknowledged gift. That same year, Obin shifted his waning hope to be an artist in the direction of the newly opened Le Centre d’Art and wrote on his blackboard, “Dear G-d, the year 1944 was a bad one for Philomé Obin. Please try and make the year 1945 a better one for him.” In 1945, five months after DeWitt Peters received his painting of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Obin was put on a monthly salary and organized a branch of Le Centre d’Art in the North.

In 1976 the president of Haiti, Jean-Claude Duvalier, awarded Obin with the highest government honor. More than a dozen of Obin relatives became painters. His legacy was also measured in the two murals he painted for Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-au-Prince, “The Crucifixion” and “The Last Supper.” Unfortunately, both murals were destroyed during the 2010 earthquake.

Sources: Rodman, Selden. Where Art Is Joy. Haitian Art: The First Forty Years. New York: Ruggles de Latour, 1988. p. 71-96

Cap-Haitien Centre-dArt
Les bourgeois du cap revenant de leurs habitations, 1958
Les bourgeois du cap revenant de leurs habitations, 1958
View
Hood Museum at Dartmouth
Prisonniers revenant dans les bois, 1947
Prisonniers revenant dans les bois, 1947
View
Betty and Isaac Rudman Trust
Bird Hunter, 1956
Bird Hunter, 1956
View
Betty and Isaac Rudman Trust
Charlemagne Peralte, 1950
Charlemagne Peralte, 1950
View
Private A10010
Les cacos de Leconte Juillet 1911, 1946
Les cacos de Leconte Juillet 1911, 1946
View
Milwaukee Art Museum
Apse at Holy Trinity Cathedral, 1950
Apse at Holy Trinity Cathedral, 1950
View
Debacle des Cacos le 1/6/1915, 1947
Debacle des Cacos le 1/6/1915, 1947
View
Huntington Museum of Art
Four innocent wretches executed, n.d.
Four innocent wretches executed, n.d.
View
Visite ésident F.D.
La Naissance de Jesus (Nativity), 1954
La Naissance de Jesus (Nativity), 1954
View
Figge Art Museum
Visite duésident F.D. ROOSEVELT au Cap Haïtien, 1944
Visite duésident F.D. ROOSEVELT au Cap Haïtien, 1944
View
Figge Art Museum
Bureaux de Vote aux Elections de 1957 au Cap-Haitien, 1958
Bureaux de Vote aux Elections de 1957 au Cap-Haitien, 1958
View
Performance, 1945
Performance, 1945
View
Untitled (Child in garden), 1960
Untitled (Child in garden), 1960
View
Private A10010
Philome Obin dans son salon, 1970s
Philome Obin dans son salon, 1970s
View
Mardi Gras, 1948
Mardi Gras, 1948
View
Selden Rodman Gallery at Ramapo College
Dessalines laissant la Crete-a-Pierro, 1960s
Dessalines laissant la Crete-a-Pierro, 1960s
View
Gessen Collection
Carnaval de 1954 Rue du pont Cap-Haitien, 1956
Carnaval de 1954 Rue du pont Cap-Haitien, 1956
View
Private A10010
US Marines vs. Guerrillas, 1949
US Marines vs. Guerrillas, 1949
View
Figge Art Museum
Sur la route du Haut-du-Cap, 1962
Sur la route du Haut-du-Cap, 1962
View
Patrick Jamieson Collection
The Crucifixion of Charlemagne Peralte for Freedom, 1970
The Crucifixion of Charlemagne Peralte for Freedom, 1970
View
Milwaukee Art Museum
Self Portrait with Family
Self Portrait with Family
View
Battle of Cacos -Haitian Army ésident F.D. ROOSEV
Battle of Cacos -Haitian Army ésident F.D. ROOSEV
View
Pilgrimage
Pilgrimage
View
Dance of the Whispers, 1955
Dance of the Whispers, 1955
View
Wedding in Cap-Haitien, 1955-65
Wedding in Cap-Haitien, 1955-65
View
La Fete de Ste. Anne Limonade, 1950-55
La Fete de Ste. Anne Limonade, 1950-55
View
Rue Petit Pont St. Michel de la Petite Anse, 1947
Rue Petit Pont St. Michel de la Petite Anse, 1947
View
Fondation Marie et Georges S. Nader
Hospitalization of Philome Obin
Hospitalization of Philome Obin
View
Fondation Marie et Georges S. Nader
Cap-Haitien Carnival, 1964
Cap-Haitien Carnival, 1964
View
The Bourgeoisie of Cap-Haitien Before the Occupation of 1915, 1961
The Bourgeoisie of Cap-Haitien Before the Occupation of 1915, 1961
View
A Message from General Toussaint Louverture to the Generals
A Message from General Toussaint Louverture to the Generals
View
Franklin D. Roosevelt Interceding in the Beyond for the Peace of the Americas, 1946
Franklin D. Roosevelt Interceding in the Beyond for the Peace of the Americas, 1946
View
Decoration of the Famous Artist Painter Philomésiden
Decoration of the Famous Artist Painter Philomésiden
View
Inspection of the Streets, 1948
Inspection of the Streets, 1948
View
Museum of Modern Art
Visite du Président F.D. ROOSEVELT au Cap Haïtien, 1944
Visite du Président F.D. ROOSEVELT au Cap Haïtien, 1944
View
Les Cacos de Leconte, Juillet, 1911, 1954
Les Cacos de Leconte, Juillet, 1911, 1954
View
Island On Fire: Jonathan Demme Private A10010
Un bucheron (A lumberjack), 1945
Un bucheron (A lumberjack), 1945
View
The Procession to the Citadel, 1977
The Procession to the Citadel, 1977
View
Detroit Institute of Arts
A passionate guitarist
A passionate guitarist
View
Detroit Institute of Arts
Self Portrait
Self Portrait
View
Waterloo Center For the Arts
On the Beach
On the Beach
View
Selden Rodman Gallery at Ramapo College
Skirmish between the men of Gal Valev St. Amour, 1961
Skirmish between the men of Gal Valev St. Amour, 1961
View
Soccer Match, 1958
Soccer Match, 1958
View
Nativite, 1976
Nativite, 1976
View
Beverly and John Fox Sullivan
Paysans Sortant et Allant au Marche, 1953
Paysans Sortant et Allant au Marche, 1953
View
Beverly and John Fox Sullivan
Harmonieuse Melodie un Dimanche a la Campagne, 1985
Harmonieuse Melodie un Dimanche a la Campagne, 1985
View
Beverly and John Fox Sullivan