Gerard Valcin – Haitian Artist
Producer, Director, Cinematographer - Gail Pellett
Writer, Narrator - Gail Pellett
Production Company: The Brooklyn Museum - 1978

Papa Zaca by Gerard Valcin, 1969

This mini-doc (5 min) was part of a series of mini-docs of thirteen artists — masters of Haitian painting and sculpture — who were included in the first major exhibit of Haitian Art in the U.S. at The Brooklyn Museum in 1978.  Ute Stebich, the curator of this exhibit of painting, sculpture and papier mache objects, conducted the original interviews that are featured here.   The artist videos were part of a video jukebox featured in the galleries where the work was displayed.  Two other longer video documentaries were screened on monitors in the galleries — an introduction to Haitian Art and Ra-Ra, a Haitian festival.

The artists included in this video juke box were:  Painters:  Philome Obin, Rigaud Benoit, Salnave Philippe -Auguste, Jasmin Joseph, Gerard Valcin, Prefete Duffaut, Andre Pierre, Jacques -Enguerrand Gourgue, Bernard Sejourne, Max Gerbier, Celestin Faustin;  and the sculptors:  Georges Liautaud and Serge Jolimeau

Gerard Valcin — like most of the artists featured in this exhibit — came from humble origins.  He had only three years of schooling.  And, like many of his colleagues, he began painting from his rich spiritual imagination — influenced by country life as well as a blending of voodou and Masonic Masonry.   He earned a living as a tile setter before taking up painting, encouraged by a group of artist friends.   He,  like a number of the other painters his age, was encouraged by Dewitt Peters who in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60s established the Centre d’Arte in Port-au-Prince, to  nurture and sell the works of Haiti’s indigenous and largely untrained talent.

Valcin’s paintings of the combite — the community circle of field workers who sing and play drums while working — are powerful for their repetitious rhythm of details. You can feel the drums in his paintings.

Coumbite by Gerard Valcin, 1971

Breaking News

The work of so many of these painters was defined as "primitive" or "naive" -- as a way to imply that these artists weren't graduates of North American or European university art programs. But the excitement and sophistication of symbolism in their work might suggest another category.

However classified, the work by this particular group of painters achieved its pinnacle in the period leading up to and immediately following this Brooklyn Museum exhibit. Unfortunately, vast quantities of tourist art copied elements of these masters making it more challenging for consumers of art to find the masterful pieces. And then, during the catastrophic earthquake of January, 2011, both the Centre D'Arte and the famous private gallery collection of Georges Nader, Sr. were destroyed. Restoration continues. The Davenport Municipal Art Gallery in Iowa and the Milwaukee Art Museum both house significant collections of Haitian art.


17 Responses to “Gerard Valcin – Haitian Artist”

  1. Colette Nimar says:


    Thanks for these very interesting videos on great haïtian artists . I’m passionate by haïtian painters , and by Haïti.I would like to know if i’t possible to buy them . Thanks for your answer . My best regards . C. Nimar

  2. Gail Pellett says:

    Thank you for your enthusiastic response to these early rough-hewn portraits of these important master artists of Haiti. I have not made these available for sale, but will try to prepare them now for that. I will get back to you shortly when I’ve mastered them for distribution. Best, Gail Pellett

  3. C McGeehan says:

    Thanks very much for posting this fantastic footage. Will you be putting up the other mini-docs for Gourgue, Faustin, etc.?

    Thanks again for sharing your work. It’s a rare glimpse at some of Haiti’s legends.

  4. Gail Pellett says:

    Thanks for your comment . Yes, I will soon post some other footage, although this material has so deteriorated, that I’m not sure how it will stand up. But soon!

  5. margi says:

    I have a painting signed “Gerard” that resembles (somewhat) the art I see here. How do I show someone to see if it’s his work?

  6. Yves Deshommes says:

    I was moved by these 5 most precious minutes. Thank you Ms Pellett. Please let me
    Know when you are done with the project, I will travel, get on line for a historical copie
    of my home land. Yves Deshommes, classical violinist

  7. Yves Deshommes says:

    Dear Ms Pellett,
    I am sorry to inform you that Prefete Duffaut passed away yesterday
    It’s confirmed.FYI

  8. Gail Pellett says:

    Thank you for this sad information, Yves. Yes, I had heard and hope you will post the Prefete Duffaut video from this site on Facebook.

  9. Myriam Nader-Salomon says:

    I just came along this very nice and informative video about our late noted Haitian artist, Gerard Valcin! Great job! Looking forward to watching some more… I also wanted to clarify that the Haiti earthquake only destroyed the building hosting Musee d’Art Nader and my parents residential home. My father’s private art collection is mostly intact, Thank God! The Museum has moved to our location in Petion-Ville.
    Myriam Of Nader Haitian Art Gallery

  10. Gail Pellett says:

    Thank you, Myriam, for this important update. I get a lot of traffic for my videos on Haitian artists. And thanks, again, for visiting my website.

  11. Myriam Nader-Salomon says:

    My pleasure. I am glad to hear that. You certainly did a great job. Keep it up! Please send me an update on your future videos.
    Myriam of Nader Haitian Art Gallery

  12. George Hoener says:

    I was in Haiti in the late 60’s and bought a painting by G Valcin from a gallery in Port au Prince. It has the same setting as depicted in the painting shown here and is about the same size but only has three figures working in that field.

  13. Gail Pellett says:

    Interesting. Thanks for taking time to share.

  14. Hans Siebert says:

    I meet Mr. Gerard Valcin in the 70’s in Haiti and bought a Papa Zaca-Painting personally from him. We were talking french and he was a little bit drunk. Maybe even more than a little bit. Unfortunatly, he did not lived much longer. His painting in my place reminds me always of him. I even went one day to Benin, to get an idea of Voodou. So, a painting, the painter and the people of Haiti influenced my life. Today, I live in Ghana, just next door …

  15. Gail Pellett says:

    A lovely story!

  16. Sonia Cradio says:

    I own a Valcin Painting that I acquired from a private collection in the early 1990’s. It was painting in 1971 by Girard. I am interested in selling it. Please let me know if there is an interest or who to contact.

  17. Gail Pellett says:

    I have posted your comment. Perhaps you should also contact the Gallerie Monnin in Port-au-Prince.

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