Hyppolite, Hector (c. 1894–1948) By Dansie, Marta
Haitian painter Hector Hyppolite (born: c.1894 (uncertain) in Saint Marc, Haiti; died: 1948 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti) is best known for his inventive depictions of Haitian religious practices called voodoo (vodou in Haitian Creole), and his portraits of spirits or loa. Hyppolite was one of Haiti’s most celebrated artists from the mid-20th century onwards, a period that has been termed a renaissance for Haitian art. Hyppolite joined the Centre d’Art, a studio and exhibition space for artists in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 1945. In the three years before his sudden death in 1948 his work was prodigious, consisting of hundreds of paintings, exhibited in Haiti and abroad during his lifetime. Soon after Hyppolite delivered his first paintings to the Centre d’Art, André Breton bought several, displayed them in Paris, and claimed Haitian painting for Surrealism. Hyppolite’s prominence during the early days of the Centre d’Art, founded in 1944, made him a leading figure in Haiti’s so-called naïve art movement. Hector Hyppolite’s eccentric persona fuelled his popularity with foreign audiences. Collectors and critics were as fascinated by Hyppolite’s polemic lifestyle as much as by his paintings. Hyppolite clearly understood that myth-making is part of the modern artist’s toolkit. His untimely death in 1948, as his reputation as an artist was growing, left many questions about his life unanswered.