Albert Huie's "Noon"

Excerpt from Lecture No. 12
Delivered by Petrine Archer-Straw

In this final lecture in the series, 'Masterpieces From the National Collection', we look at Albert Huie's "Noon" painted in 1943.

It is appropriate that we conclude with a work which embodies the unfolding narrative of Jamaican painting and communicates the spirit of 1938, the raising of the blackman's consciousness and a greater participation by the blackman in arts.

src="files/ps/images/_albhuie.jpg" alt="AlbHuie.jpg" width="150" height="124" align="left" />"Noon" is a truly Jamaican depiction by an artist who has had a life-long passion for his country and people. Despite the many different influences that Jamaican artists would experience "Noon" represents the essence of Jamaican painting before the artistic Diaspora. In this respect our appraisal of "Noon" today represents a coming home.

It is mid-day, the setting in Manley Gully, an area of land which borders the Manley property of Drumlair. The young artist, having established his studio on Grants Pen Road, daily moves around his immediate environs seeking new scenes to capture on canvas. He is consciously seeking the Jamaican worker, so impressed is he with their strength and ability to take a stand. It is 1943 - just five years since that catalytic week of activities when Jamaican workers took their destinies in their own hands and demanded their place in the sun.

It is with a new sense of pride that the artist documents their lives, whether cropping cane in the fields or resting in their own backyards, he seeks gesture and theatrical gesticulation characteristics which speaks of the uniqueness of his people. As he passes en route for Kingston he daily witnesses scenes which communicate this Jamaican ballet. This time it is noon and the workers are outside the Gore Cigarette Factory taking a break from their work, resting in the shade of the trees. The mid-day sun directly overhead causes them to congregate together in a siesta like scene. The women chat, one youth appears engrossed in some sort of game while the young couples frolic and flirt with each other. In the distance, work continues, barrels are stacked outside the building and a mother carrying her child treads her weary way home in the hot sun.

The young artist, Albert Huie is not yet twenty-three and unexposed to art styles and techniques, he captures the scene in earnest. His realism which is superceded only expressionism generated within his generous forms and use of colour. Trees, sky, mountains and the human figures integrated into the landscape are all documented with a discerning eye which seeks out distance tonal values for every fold of a garment, Every shadow cast on a building, and in certain instances, the leaves on trees. The colour rings true lush green of the trees, the blue-tinged mountains, the arid red earth. At this stage in his artistic development, there is very little comparison to be made between his works and those of other artists, his style represents an honest attempt to document in whatever way possible - he considers himself at this point 'self taught'. His development has come through trial and error.

Albert Huie was born to be an artist, painting from as far back as he can remember, he would go on to become one of Jamaica's most popular painters of landscape and genre scenes. Having taught at the institute of Jamaica's Junior Centre during the forties, he was awarded the British Council Scholarship in 1947 and studied research in painting techniques at Lamberwell London. Since then Huie has exhibited both locally and internationally and has received several awards and honours including the Order of Distinction (1978) and the Institute of Jamaica's Gold Musgrave Medal (1974).