Between November 2019 and March 2020, the Jamaican artistic community lost some of its most important personalities. At the National Gallery of Jamaica, it was our wish to honour the memory of these notables through our In Memoriam blog series. However, due to the rapid succession of these saddening announcements, we were greatly challenged to prepare and produce our articles in a manner that coincided with the other memorial or funerary activities being undertaken by the bereaved. 

Additionally, the emergence of the COVID-19 health crisis in Jamaica has severely impacted our daily operations, as we join the rest of our island in our adherence to the public health directives being implemented by the Jamaican Government. 

It is with the deepest respect, that we are now able to post our tributes to: 

Susan Shirley (1950 – 2019)

Rafiki Karuiki (1951 – 2020)

Michael Stanley (1944 – 2020)

Alexander Cooper (1934 – 2020)

Wallace Campbell (1940 – 2020)

Beverley Oliver (1956 – 2020) 

As you read these tributes, we encourage you, our audience, to consider that each of these individuals have been integral in the practice and promotion of the visual arts of Jamaica for most of their lives. Whether this has been through the creation of impactful works of art, demonstrations of exemplary technical skill or in the active support for the arts through patronage and voluntary service, they have all added to and enriched the history, ideas and innovations that characterize Jamaican creative culture. 

Please note that none of these individuals passed away due to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

In Memoriam, NGJ Pays Tribute to Hugh Dunphy (1934-2019)


The National Gallery of Jamaica was saddened to receive news of the passing of art collector and gallery owner Hugh Dunphy on October 31, 2019. Dunphy was the proprietor of the Bolivar Bookshop and Gallery, located in St. Andrew, Jamaica. 

Born in Hampstead, London, Dunphy joined the British Navy briefly before enrolling at the University of Cambridge hoping to study for a visual arts degree. However, none was offered at the institution and so he took courses in English Literature and Archaeology, as well as minor language studies. After he graduated from Cambridge and had a chance meeting with influential British potter Bernard Leach (mentor to Jamaican master potter Cecil Baugh), Dunphy received a scholarship to study ceramics and batik in Japan. There he was introduced to several Japanese masters including ceramist Shōji Hamada and batik artist Minagawa Taizo. Later Dunphy began working as a travelling book sales representative for publishing houses in England, eventually getting a job as an international representative for the Oxford University Press. His travel assignments for Oxford – which involved selling books and promoting the publishers to writers and institutions – took him to Eastern Europe, Russia, and South America. His work eventually brought him to the Caribbean in the 1950s and after 3 to 4 years, he left Oxford to settle in Jamaica permanently around 1954. 

In the same year he established a bookstore at Tangerine Place, off Half Way Tree Road in 1965, which he named ‘Bolivar’ – inspired by the fervor of newly Independent Jamaica and the legacy of Venezuelan liberator Símon Bolívar. The bookstore specialized in “books on Latin America and the West Indies, Spanish Language, Art and other subjects…” and also offered publishing services through the Bolivar Press. Additionally, Dunphy began construction on a building at 1d Grove Road, which featured a purpose-built space for an art gallery. The Bolivar Bookstore and Press were relocated to the new facilities in 1966 and the Bolivar Art Gallery was officially established. Dunphy also opened Bolivar Fine Arts at the Westgate Shopping Centre, Montego Bay, which concentrated on retailing and framing rather than hosting exhibitions. He continued to work as a publishing agent sales representative for other book publishing companies. 

Among the oldest commercial art galleries in Jamaica, the Bolivar Gallery was a major hub for a variety of artists, ranging from emerging to highly acclaimed, based locally and overseas. Edna Manley, Albert Huie, Ralph Campbell, Carl Abrahams, David Boxer, Colin Garland, Barrington Watson, Hope Brooks, Carol Crichton and Phillip Thomas are among numerous Jamaican artists who had solo and group exhibitions at the Bolivar. The art gallery also offered valuation and consultations for established and aspiring private and corporate collectors – Dunphy’s clientele included for instance, the Matalon business family. The Bolivar Gallery was one of the few older galleries that had survived the financial crisis of the early 1990s, which led to the closure of several such galleries particularly in Kingston and St. Andrew. Due in part to the continuous diversification of the Bolivar’s business offerings, for example the addition of framing services, Dunphy and his then wife Ouida, further expanded the business to include antique dealership and the sale of imported Oriental furniture and décor, inspired by their many travels to exotic locations like Southeast Asia. His continued activities as a publishing agent for the Cambridge University Press and Thames and Hudson in the UK, as well as McGraw-Hill in the United States, also helped to supplement his art business during the economic downturn. 

Dunphy himself became known as an avid collector of the work of modern Jamaican artists and pre-twentieth century works about Jamaica, developing a moderate but comprehensive private collection. The National Gallery of Jamaica benefitted from his knowledge of lithographic prints, when the institution consulted him during the development of the exhibition Isaac Mendes Belisario, Art and Emancipation in Jamaica (2008). He was also a private lender for that exhibition. Following Ouida’s passing in 2012, the Bolivar continued to be a hub of activity for contemporary art shows, book launches, presentations and other events such as the Kingston on the Edge arts festival. In later years, Dunphy continued to run the Bolivar with the assistance of his current wife, Janet and their staff. 

The NGJ’s Board of Directors, management and staff remembers Hugh Dunphy for his great, gracious and steadfast support of the Jamaican visual arts community, a commitment that has spanned over five decades of his life. As such, the institution extends its deepest condolences and best wishes to his son Damian (with former wife Patricia Byer), his family and friends, during this time of bereavement. 

In Memoriam Maria Layacona (1926 – 2019)

Maria LaYacona – Image courtesy of Donnette Zacca

The National Gallery of Jamaica received the sad news of the passing of celebrated photojournalist and portrait photographer Maria LaYacona on Sunday April 28, 2019.

Born on November 18, 1926 in Cleveland Ohio to Italian parents, LaYacona first studied photography with her father Mario LaYacona and later trained at the Winona School of Photography in Warsaw Indiana. She went on to work as a photojournalist for LIFE magazine and travelled around the world documenting life in the 1950s for the magazine. She first came to Jamaica in 1955 while on an assignment for LIFE magazine to photograph Australian Cricket team’s first match –and also the first night game – at Sabina Park.  She fell in love with the island and in her own words “felt she had a tremendous future here” and made Jamaica her home until her passing.

She was the official photographer for the National Dance Theatre Company from its inception in 1962 until 1992. From that association, the books Roots and Rhythms and Renewal and Continuity – The National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica – 1962–2008 were developed with both books benefitting from the extensive visual repertoire she had developed for the NDTC over the years.

Maria LaYacona – Rex Nettleford (1965/1993), Collection: National Gallery of Jamaica

Though known primarily for her beautifully lit black and white photography, she was also a founding member of the Colour Photographic Club of Jamaica in 1964 which became one of the leading promoters and innovators of the art form in the island.  With her black and white photography however, she felt that without the distractions of colour, the beauty of her subjects was more evident to her audience.  LaYacona made quite an impact as a commercial photographer. She was one of the early advocates for the use of Jamaican models in local advertising campaigns for such companies as Berger Paints, Milo and Captain Morgan’s Rum, which led to increased local success for these companies.

Video courtesy of Frame By Frame Productions 

Her commercial work led to portraits and she was known for her sensitive and engaging portraiture which she felt “showed the identities and personalities of her subjects.” She was the professional portraitist for many of Jamaica’s Prime Ministers including Alexander Bustamante, Norman Manley and Edward Seaga; her portrait of Prime Minister Michael Manley was also used for the One Thousand Dollar bill. LaYacona also photographed many of Jamaica’s visual artists including David Pottinger, Mallica Kapo Reynolds and Edna Manley and major cultural figures such as Sir Phillip Sherlock, Millie Small and  Paul Campbell, but it was her photographs depicting everyday Jamaicans: fishermen, vendors and children that proved to be her most iconic.

Maria LaYacona – Anthony Simpson, Richard Brown, Jason Clare and Ronald Francis Green Hill Portland (1981)

Her first major exhibition – which featured photographs of the National Dance Theatre Company – was held at Devon House 1972, the same year that she was awarded the Silver Musgrave Award.  Her second major exhibition, a survey of Jamaican portraits, was held at the National Gallery of Jamaica in 1993 (LaYacona would later serve on the National Gallery’s Board of Directors from 1998 to 2004). Her long career of capturing images also led to the production of two collections of her photography Jamaican Portraits and Jamaica Reverie which showcased her enduring passion for the people of Jamaica and its landscape.

The Board of Directors and the staff of the National Gallery of Jamaica wish to extend their sincere condolences to the family, friends and caregivers of Maria LaYacona.

In Memoriam Albert Artwell (1942-2018)

Albert Artwell holding “Black Star Liner”. Image courtesy of Jessica Ogden.

The National Gallery of Jamaica has received the sad news of the passing renowned intuitive painter Albert Artwell.

Albert Artwell was born in 1942 to farming parents in Catadupa St. James. He attended school in the same district and eventually became a farmer himself. At the age of 26 he grew locks after having visions of the Biblical prophets Abraham and Moses and saw himself as a shepherd of the Rastafari faith. Deeply religious, he differentiated himself from other Rastafari claiming to be a ‘Hebrew,’ “because he recognized Abraham as the father of the Israelites.” The genesis of his artistic production can be traced back to the highly decorated hardboard panels on which he used to write verses from the Bible that held personal significance for him.  Religious visions played a critical role in his artistic development, as they were noted as the inspiration for his decision in 1975 to begin illustrating scenes from the Bible which proved to be recurrent themes in his painting for the rest of his career.

Albert Artwell – City of Africa (1978, Collection: NGJ)

His paintings utilized the archaic compositional device of vertical stacking, which is found in Egyptian art and other African artistic traditions including Ethiopian Illuminated Manuscripts.  The sometimes seemingly arbitrary scale of his figures, are also related to a hieratic compositional mode found in medieval and ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics in which the relative importance of the figures in the work, relate to the artist’s concept of their importance in the narrative presented.

Dr David Boxer in his essay Introducing Fifteen Intuitives described his work as “wondrous visions caught in intricate drawings that seem to chart the very wanderings and yearnings of his soul”…His iconography, however has been clearly updated by his obvious Black Rasta consciousness. Thus in a Crucifixion for example, Christ will be black (‘The Sufferer’) and his tormenting soldiers will be white – sometimes dressed in the garb of British colonial officers”  

His work was exhibited locally in the Fifteen Intuitives and the Intuitive Eye at the National Gallery of Jamaica and internationally in the critically acclaimed Jamaican Art 1922-82 exhibition staged at several North American venues by the Smithsonian Institution Travelling Exhibition Service (SITES); The Commonwealth Institutes Jamaican Intuitives staged in London, Sheffield and Edinburgh in 1986 and Redemption Songs: The Intuitive Artists of Jamaica which toured the United States from 1999-2002 and most recently the Jamaica Jamaica! Exhibition staged last year at the Philharmonie de Paris which travelled to Brazil and is currently on show at the SESC 24 de Maio in São Paulo.

Over the years his work was very popular with collectors of Jamaican Intuitive art and he developed a close working relationship with several of the galleries that represented him in particular the Harmony Hall Gallery in Ocho Rios and the Gallery of West Indian Art in Montego Bay.

Albert Artwell – The Birth of Jesus (n.d.), Annabella and Peter Proudlock Collection

“Artwell’s religious work and especially his recasting of Christ’s story and mission, indeed the very essence of Christianity, in his terms as a proud and dignified Black man, is his indelible gift to the visual arts of Jamaica”

In 2003 Albert Artwell received a bronze Musgrave Award from the Institute of Jamaica for Outstanding Merit in the Field of Art.

The Board of Directors and the staff of the National Gallery of Jamaica wish to extend their deepest condolences to the family and friends of Albert Artwell.

In Memoriam Gene Hendricks Pearson O.D. (1946-2018)

Gene Pearson – photograph courtesy of Taynia Nethersole

The National Gallery of Jamaica received the sad news of the passing of Master sculptor, ceramist and teacher Gene Hendricks Pearson O.D. on March 15.

Born in 1946 in Wood Hall St Catherine; Pearson was only 15 years old when he was was first introduced to the medium of clay at the Jamaica School of Art now the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in 1960. He studied under Jamaica’s Master Potter Cecil Baugh with whom he developed a close relationship; Pearson recounted that “…[Baugh] was like a father to me and I was like the son he never have.” He was one of the first two students to graduate from the school with a Diploma in Ceramics in 1965 and subsequently went on to teach at his alma mater for almost eighteen years and also taught drawing and painting at Calabar and Vere Technical High Schools in the early 1970s.

After he stopped teaching at the School of Art he began dividing his time between Jamaica and Northern California working with the Potters Studio in Berkley. He used the facilities there to produce his larger sculptures and his bronze works and also conducted workshops at University of Berkley and participated in exhibitions in California. He was also known to be a keen cultural entrepreneur having opened an eponymous gallery in New Kingston where he sold his ceramic and sculptural works.

While he produced more conventional ceramics, such as vases and bowls, Pearson was best known for his sculptural work, especially his popular heads and masks which celebrated black beauty and dignity. Inspired by the arts of the ancient Nubia and Benin as well as Rastafari culture, the introverted monumentality of his sculptural works made them amongst the most distinctive and recognizable of the artists of his generation.

Gene Pearson – Mother (1992), bronze, Aaron and Marjorie Matalon Collection, NGJ

“I have always thought that my work speaks for me. I am not a man who does speak much. My work is very spiritual. All my powers come from God and nature and I execute them through clay…”

Gene Pearson Raku Head nd

He worked extensively with local clays with varying properties and colours, sourced from locales such as Castleton, Trench Town and Clarendon. His ceramic work also showed the results of his constant experimentation with the ancient Japanese technique of Raku-style firing, of which he was an acknowledged master. The characteristic crackled surface of his Raku ware was used with great finesse in his sculptural forms and had become part of his signature style.

Pearson boycotted the National Gallery for several years while it was at its Devon House location when it didn’t recognize ceramics as fine art and was successful in his mission of gaining greater local recognition for ceramics and ceramic sculpture.

His work is represented in major Jamaican collections, such as the National Gallery of Jamaica, the Bank of Jamaica and the Hardingham Collection, as well as the private collections of international celebrities such as Stevie Wonder, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Diahann Carroll, and Alice Walker. His ceramic works have also served as official Jamaican gifts to Heads of States and other public figures including Leonid Brezhnev of the Soviet Union, Prime Minister Phan Van Dong of Vietnam, President Lopez Portillo of Mexico, President Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Roberta Flack, Maya Angelou and President Bill Clinton of the USA.

Gene Pearson – Sculptured Pot (1987), Collection: NGJ, Gift of Ken and Patricia Ramsay

In 2010 the Institute of Jamaica awarded Pearson the Silver Musgrave Medal for outstanding merit for his contribution to the field of art and in 2015, he was awarded the Order of Distinction — Commander Class, for his contribution to the development of the fine arts in Jamaica. This was an upgrade to the Officer Class designation he had received some years prior.

The Board of Directors and the staff of the National Gallery of Jamaica wish to extend their deepest condolences to the family and friends of Gene Pearson.

In Memoriam Jacquelyne Hussey-Pearson (1962-2018)

Jacueline Hussey Pearson

Photo courtesy of Amitabh Sharma

The National Gallery of Jamaica received the sad news of the passing of Jacquelyne Hussey-Pearson on March 12. Known to her friends and others in creative circles as ‘Lady Jacquelyne,’ she pursued a career as a visual artist, fashion designer, short filmmaker and Didgeridoo player and approached life with an infectious positivity that left its mark on all who interacted with her.

A major proponent of abstraction, her paintings documented personal struggles, triumphs and also reflected the major influences in her life. She exhibited extensively both locally and abroad and was involved in several initiatives that promoted Jamaican visual arts one of which was the Wonderland Fine Art Gallery at RedBones which has had over 200 artists exhibiting since its inception.

She was a vibrant and energetic presence in the artistic community and she will be greatly missed.  The Board of Directors and the Staff of the National Gallery of Jamaica wish to extend our deepest condolences to her family and friends.