Sunday, 23 September 2012

Light Falling on Bamboo

I am just reading Light Falling on Bamboo, a novel based on the life of the Trinidadian artist Michel Jean Cazabon (1813-1888), by Trinidad-born writer  Lawrence Scott, and am rather ashamed that I was not aware of Cazabon’s career, as I did once search for nineteenth-century views of the Caribbean, to see what images were being produced for (as I assumed) the European market. 

 Cazabon was the son of free black   property-owning parents originally from Martinique.  He attended St Edmund's College, outside Ware, and then studied under Paul Delaroche in Paris, exhibiting at the Salon before returning to Trinidad.  Scott’s book is fiction, owing to the lack of letters, memoirs or other records of Cazabon’s life. He married a Frenchwoman and his work indicates sympathy with the Barbizon school of ruralist artists like Corot and Millet and their concern with the effects of light; in the Caribbean, landscape-with-figures seems to have been his dominant subject, though I don’t know enough to summarise his output.  

 Several of the views depict arching bamboo trees, hence Scott’s title.

Coincidentally, this week I just caught the end of the National Gallery’s summer exhibition based around Titian’s Diana and Actaeon  series, which included backdrops for Covent Garden’s ballet series Metamorphoses by Chris Ofili, who now lives and works in Trinidad.

I learn that several of Cazabon's pictures are at the former home of the governor of Trinidad in Cazabon's time, Lord Harris, in Kent.  How intriguing.

PS    Lawrence Scott will be talking about Michel Cabazon at Belmont House, Throwley, ME13 0HH at an event hosted by High Commission of Trinidad and Tobago to celebrate Cabazon's bi-centenary on Saturday 6 July from noon.

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