On March 5, 2018, Jamaican painter and educator Dorothy Henriques-Wells passed away at the age of 92 in Miami. Henriques-Wells was born in St Andrew in 1926 to parents who were themselves actively engaged as creatives. Her father Llewelyn was a jeweler but it was her mother, Lilieth an oil painter who often painted the flora and landscapes that surrounded their home that would be her earliest inspiration.
Henriques-Wells showed promise as an artist quite early in her life and declared at age 12 that art was to be her calling. She was sent to take art classes with Armenian artist Koren der Harootian and would go on to win numerous prizes for art as a student at Wolmer’s High School. In 1947 she enrolled at the Ontario College of Art – now the OCAD University and it was while there that her interests expanded from the natural bounty of her native Jamaica, to portraiture and her thesis painting depicted a black model wearing a traditional headwrap. She became the College’s first black alumnus in 1950; and later returned to Jamaica, marrying veterinary surgeon Carl F. Wells in 1956, with whom she raised three children.
Henriques-Wells made a significant contribution to the artistic scene of Jamaica. She opened a commercial gallery called the Art Wheel in 1968 which represented other local artists and went on to help found the Jamaican Artists and Craftsmen Guild. She was also an art teacher for more than twenty years and exhibited numerous times in Kingston at the Institute of Jamaica’s All Island shows, the Victoria Craft Market Tercentenary as well as in the National Gallery of Jamaica’s Annual National and Biennial exhibitions.
A gifted painter who shared her mother’s affinity for the natural Jamaican landscape Henriques-Wells painted mostly in the realist watercolour style that she had developed during her studies at OCAD; Associate Professor in the Faculty of Arts at OCAD Andrea Fatona on first seeing her work described her it as follows:
Her poetic, realist approach to her subjects – nature and humans – is sparse, flowing and vibrant with sun-kissed colours.
In 1987, the Institute of Jamaica awarded Dorothy Henriques-Wells the Silver Musgrave Award for outstanding merit in the field of visual arts. Her legacy continues through the many children she taught and inspired – including her own – with her vibrancy and passion for art.
The Board of Directors and the Staff of the National Gallery of Jamaica wish to extend our deepest condolences to the Family and friends of Dorothy Henriques-Wells.