The ruins of the Palais de Sans Souci

Art in Haiti

Middle America


Columbus ordered fortifications along the north coast of Hispaniola. A typical fort was St. Louis, which was constructed with a pentagonal (pentagonal) floor plan, with bastions in each of the five corners and an open courtyard in the middle. The Citadelle de la Ferrière, inaugurated in 1816, is considered the best example of West Indian military architecture. Beneath the citadel stands the Palais de Sans Souci, an impressive three-story neoclassical building, with a monumental double staircase.

The ruins of the Palais de Sans Souci

The ruins of the Palais de Sans Souci, built under regent Henri Christophe in the early 1800s, are on UNESCO’s List of World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

Haitian architecture in the 18th century was largely based on British classicist models. There are few examples of early church architecture. The old cathedral in Port-au-Prince was built in 1720, destroyed in 1991. The churches often had baroque-inspired facades, with curved volutes. The remaining public buildings in Port-au-Prince show variety and eclecticism. The Roman Catholic cathedral of 1915 is built in Neo-Romanesque style, in pink and white stone. The new Palais National, completed in 1918, was designed by Georges Baussan.

Albert Mangones and Robert Baussan helped to develop modernism in Port-au-Prince in homes, offices and restaurants. A major piece of modern architecture is the Musée du Panthéon National Haiti at Champ de Mars, a distinctive building with blue tiled and tapered ceilings, designed by the French architect Alexandre Guichard.

Visual arts

The art of painting was long characterized by European models, mainly French and Italian Baroque and French and British romance. Historical and heroic motifs were popular, as were portraits. Unfortunately, the national collection of paintings, including the history paintings, was lost during the destruction of the Palais National in 1912.

Literary movements (Indigenism) paved the way for Haitian art of the 1890s, and in the 1920s a renewed interest in Haitian culture emerged. Edouard Goldman painted The Crucified Rebel Charlemagne Perrault (1920). Philomé Obin later painted the same motif to visualize his country’s history. The imaginative folk art of Haiti was highly appreciated. by French surrealist André Breton.

The Center d’Art in Port-au-Prince was founded in 1945 and began a rich period in the arts. Painters such as Rigaud Benoit, Hector Hyppolite and Wilson Bigaud were essentially self-taught and created naïve paintings with imaginative motifs. In sculpture, a tradition developed in the use of scrap metal. Georges Liautaud cut figures in iron and got many followers. A group of artists distanced themselves from folk art and worked in a more international style. Haiti’s most famous artist in recent years is Hervé Télémaque, a resident of France.