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Nineteenth Century

Written by Geoffrey MacLean

Nineteenth CenturyRichard (Hicks) Bridgens (b.1785 d. 1846) was a sculptor, designer and architect, he attempted to set up an architectural practice in Birmingham in 1819 which he closed in 1825 when he moved to Trinidad where his wife had inherited a sugar plantation.

In 1836 he printed¬†West India Scenery, with Illustrations of Negro Character, the process of making sugar, etc. from sketches taken during a voyage to, and residence of seven years in, the Island of Trinidad.¬†Bridgens’ work is an early record of life in Trinidad.

Bridgens became the Superintendent of Public Works in Port of Spain and was responsible for the design of the first Government Offices on the site now occupied by the Red House. He died in Trinidad in 1846.

Michel-Jean Cazabon (b.1813 d.1888) was the son of Martiniquan parents who settled in Trinidad in the late eighteenth century and were part of the Free Coloured/Free Black society of the Naparimas around San Fernando. Cazabon was educated first in England and then in Paris where he studied art.

According to family legend Cazabon was a student of Delaroche (b.1797 d.1856). More precisely we know that he was a student of Michel-Martin Drolling (b.1789 d.1851), Jean-Antoine-Theodore Gudin (b.1802 d.1880) and Antoine Leon Morel-Fatio (b.1810 d.1871). Gudin was a marine painter and it is likely that Cazabon learnt printing from Morel-Fatio.

A student in Paris from the late 1830’s to about 1850, Cazabon followed closely the philosophy of the French Landscape Movement.

Dry River, Belmont | M.J. Cazabon (c.1870)

On his return to Trinidad he transposed his European techniques and philosophy into unique views of Trinidad. Without Cazabon’s images, we would have little idea how Trinidad looked in the 18th century. In addition to his landscape watercolours he executed portraits of the plantocracy and the various facets of Trinidad’s social life. He published two sets of lithographs of Trinidad (Views of Trinidad, 1851 and Album of Trinidad, 1857), and contributed, with the photographer Hartmann, to two others, Album Martiniquaise in1860 and Views of Demerara, 1860.

The only “self-portrait” that we have of Cazabon is one of him with a hunting party led by Lord Harris, painting the view from Mount Tamana.

Detail of lithograph “View from Mount Tamana”. 1851 | Michel-Jean Cazabon

Cazabon’s students included James Lushington Wildeman, Secretary and cousin to Lord Harris (b.1810 d.1872), Governor of Trinidad from 1845 to 1854 and one of Cazabon’s greatest patrons, Margaret Mann (b.1827 d…..) – the wife of a military officer attached to Lord Harris and the German-Trinidadian Vincent Leon Wehekind. It is sometimes extremely difficult to tell their paintings from those of Cazabon’s. Letters from Margaret Mann refer to Cazabon, whom she thought arrogant and self-opinioned, as lending her “copies” of his paintings.

Naparima Hill from Corynth Estate 1852 | James Lushington Wildeman

Theodora Walter (b.1869 d.1959), daughter of a Trinidadian mother and grand-daughter of the English watercolourist, Theodore Walter (b.1832 d.1914), was a skilled botanical painter. She produced several studies of the Trinidadian landscape, of which Nudes at Macqueripe Bay is possibly the best known. Walter joined the Theosophical Society and developed a close friendship with Rudolph Steiner. Under the influence of the Theosophists, Walter developed a highly original style of painting which can be described as an early branch of Expressionism, produced in an attempt to depict their spiritial values.

Nudes on Macqueripe Bay (c.1900) | Theodora Walter


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