Natural Histories: Eugene Hyde, Croton Series

Eugene Hyde - From the Croton Series (1974), mixed media on canvas, Collection: NGJ

Eugene Hyde – From the Croton Series (1974), mixed media on canvas, Collection: NGJ

Croton Series (1964) is a part of Eugene Hyde‘s flower series. For most of his career, Hyde’s stylistic approach was adventurous and foreign to Jamaican audiences who were unfamiliar with abstraction and more inclined towards classical realist art. He is considered a major force in the development of abstract art in Jamaica and saw himself as something of an outsider to the local art scene. In the mid-1960’s, Hyde’s work began to reflect a strong Abstract Expressionist influence, the Croton Series exemplifies this moment.

 Abstract Expressionism is an art movement that gained prominence in post-World War II America (mid to late 1940s). The movement is characterised by a combination of the emotional intensity and self-denial of the German Expressionists with the anti-figurative aesthetic of earlier abstract movements such as Futurism and the Bauhaus. Elements of abstract expressionism such as  dynamism and movement in form, shape and space characterize Croton Series and other such works by Hyde. The works use of sweeping movements of gradating colours to imply form is also typically Abstract Expressionist. Though Hyde was interested in abstraction, his work never became strictly formalist as was the tendency with European and American abstract movements. He re-interpreted abstraction to suit the Jamaican context, always maintaining a representational element in his compositions.

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Eugene Hyde - Untitled (1978)  mixed media on canvas, Collection: NGJ, gift of National Hotels and Properties

Eugene Hyde – Untitled (1978) mixed media on canvas, Collection: NGJ, gift of National Hotels and Properties

Jamaica’s Art Pioneers: Eugene Hyde (1931-1980) – Part II: His Work

This second in a two-part feature on Eugene Hyde was researched and compiled by Monique Barnett, Curatorial Assistant.

Eugene Hyde - Good Friday (Casualties series), 1978, Collection: NGJ

Eugene Hyde’s artistic oeuvre includes drawings and etchings on paper, mix media paintings on canvas as well as explorations in architectural ceramics. Hyde also executed commissions for large murals, for example a stone mural for University of the West Indies Extramural Campus on South Camp Road. He was also commissioned to do a stage backdrop for Dialogue for Three, a dance piece choreographed by the late Professor Rex Nettleford for the National Dance Theatre Company during the mid-1960. Today, he is considered one of Jamaica’s great muralists. “Hyde brought a new aesthetic to Jamaica…together with Barrington Watson, he introduced a new sense of scale [and] a more “expansive” imagery.” (Smith-McCrea, 1984, 10)

Eugene Hyde - Design for Coloured Stone Mural, n.d.

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Jamaica’s Art Pioneers: Eugene Hyde (1931-1980) – Part I: His Life

This first in a two-part feature on Eugene Hyde was researched and compiled by Monique Barnett, Curatorial Assistant.

Rex Nettleford in discussion with Jamaican painter Eugene Hyde, who was working on his 1966 exhibition The Dance (photographer unknown)

One of the most ambitious developments to take place within the realm of the
Jamaican art movement was the formation of the Contemporary Jamaica Artists’ Association (CJAA) in 1963. It emerged at a time when Jamaica had already established several galleries, a tertiary institution of art (the Jamaica School of Art), and a viewing public along with competent critics – all indicators of the professionalization of Jamaican art at that time. This association of professional artists was geared towards building “respectability for the profession as well as [making] art a financially viable concern and [elevating] it to a standard comparable with other movements abroad” (Archer-Straw & Robinson 1990, 57). The founders of the Association, Karl Parboosingh, Eugene Hyde and Barrington Watson, all shared strong commitment to the adoption of modern approaches to art in Jamaica. Hyde in particular was responsible for introducing a number of international artists to exhibit in Jamaica during the sixties and seventies. Described as a quiet and systematic worker, he was possibly the first of Jamaica’s artists to develop the idea of working ‘serially’- creating a series of works based on a single theme. In fact, it was his Flora series (1969-1973) that brought him public recognition as an accomplished young Jamaican painter.

Eugene Hyde - From the Croton Series (1974), mixed media on canvas, Collection: NGJ

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