Remembering Albert Huie: The 'Master Painter'
Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer
In late 2000, painter Albert Huie was enjoying the tranqui-lity of retirement at his home in Baltimore, Maryland, when a controversy from decades past returned to haunt him.
'Miss Mahogany', a 1960 nude painting that caused a furore when it was first exhibited in Kingston that year, was lifted from a feature in Air Jamaica's Sky Writings magazine, after complaints from passengers.
In a 2000 interview, Huie - who died in Baltimore on January 31 at age 89 - said it was a well-known clergyman who led the protest against 'Miss Mahogany' in 1960. Huie's reaction to the Sky Writings action 40 years later was similar to the initial controversy.
"The first time, I thought the people were backward because nude paintings had been shown throughout the world for years," he said. "I think these people (at Air Jamaica) are limited."
The Sky Writings episode may have rankled Huie, but it also placed the spotlight on a man who preferred a low profile, even though he was revered as a master craftsman by local and foreign art buffs.
a man in love with his work
Among those admirers was Edward Lucie-Smith, an international art critic who helped compile 69 of Huie's paintings for the book, Albert Huie: Father of Jamaican Painting. The book was released by Ian Randle Publishers around the time Sky Writings editors pulled Miss Mahogany from its pages. Huie seemed unfazed by all the fuss being made about him.
"I'm basically a worker. If it had been left to me, there would never have been a book," he said.
Wallace Campbell is one of Jamaica's leading art collectors. His collection includes several Huie paintings including 'The Counting Lesson' which the painter said was a personal favourite. Campbell, who knew Huie for over 35 years, said he was not one for the spotlight.
"He never cared for the limelight but he loved his art and was a fantastic storyteller," Campbell said. "Every Huie painting had a story."
The Lucie-Smith book got strong reviews. According to Amazon.com, "This book is an excellent introduction to the life and works of Albert Huie as represented across six decades and five genres, namely: landscapes, genre scenes, nudes, portraits and flowers. It will be a priceless addition to the collection of those already familiar with art and the paintings of Albert Huie."
Huie was born in Falmouth, Trelawny, and was not formally trained as a painter. He said he started painting in his teens and began earning a living from his work through small commissions from haberdashery merchants in downtown Kingston.
Edna Manley, a respected sculptor and wife of Norman Manley, Jamaica's first premier, was one of Huie's early admirers. They not only shared a healthy artistic bond but were co-founders of the Jamaica School of Arts and Crafts (later the Jamaica School of Art) in 1950. His 'Portrait of Edna Manley' was Huie's tribute to Manley, who died in 1987. At the height of his creative powers, Huie staged exhibitions in the United States, Canada, Cuba and England. A showing at the Brandywine Workshop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 2004, was one of his last major exhibitions.
Last November, the Olympia Gallery in St Andrew sold several of Huie's rare woodcut prints. Rosemary Thwaites, the gallery's owner, said part proceeds would go to developing the art of local printmaking. The thanksgiving service for the life of Albert Huie took place in Baltimore on February 8.
'Portrait of Edna Manley' was painted by artist Albert Huie.- File