Gerard Fortuné

About the Artist

Gerard in 2004
Gerard in 2004
Gerard Fortuné at his home, 1991. (Photograph © Anthony Hart Fisher 1991)
Gerard Fortuné at his home, 1991. (Photograph © Anthony Hart Fisher 1991)
Gerard at his home in 2014. (Photograph © Anthony Hart Fisher 2014)
Gerard at his home in 2014. (Photograph © Anthony Hart Fisher 2014)
Gerard at his home in 2014. (Photograph © Anthony Hart Fisher 2014)
Gerard at his home in 2014. (Photograph © Anthony Hart Fisher 2014)

Born 1933 (according to one bio., although he told me he did not know when he was born) in Petionville, Haiti. Another account lists his birth year as May 2, 1925.  He worked as a pastry chef at a hotel, before beginning to paint in 1978. Gerard’s work has been exhibited internationally, is included in the permanent collections of Ramapo College, New Jersey and the Waterloo Museum of Art in Iowa, and is published in Where Art is Joy (Rodman, 1988), Dialogue du Réel et de L’imaginaire (1990), and Island on Fire (Demme, 1997), and the recent monograph, Gerard Fortuné.

Gerard was profiled in a January 2014 article in Hand/Eye by Rebeca Schiller, with photographs by Maggie Steber, Fortune's Good Fortune:  Naif painter Gerard Fortune is obliged to paint:  

Gerard Fortune paints everything: “I’m obligated to paint vodou and Jesus and flowers and the sea. And villages and anything that comes to mind.”  Fortune is one of the most prolific and collectible painters in modern Haiti – recognized by connoisseurs of Haitian art in North American and Europe and respected by his peers at home.  His naïf renditions of everything from village scenes to vodou ceremonies to politics line collectors’ walls with bright renditions of daily life, including the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake that devastated much of Haiti. 

Gerard doesn’t know his age.  He was born in Petionville, located on the outskirts of Haiti’s capitol. He says he has been alive since former Haitian dictator Jean Claude Duvalier was a child, which would put him between 50 and 60 years old. But his age is less important than what he creates.

Several decades ago Gerard worked in the kitchen of a private home where he saw paintings by both Haitian and international artists.  He decided to try it himself.  His first painting was an 8x10 inch canvas of Jesus on the cross. A Frenchman liked it and bought it. He continued to sell to the same Frenchman each time he made a new piece, always in a naïf style of painting -- very childlike, using whatever paint he could find, always in bright colors.  

The Frenchman encouraged him to continue and at some point, Gerard gained confidence and began taking his work to Issa El-Saieh, a former orchestra leader in Haiti who went on to become one of Haiti’s major gallery owners. It was at Issa’s gallery in Port au Prince that I first saw Gerard’s work. Surrounded by hundreds of paintings hung on walls, piled on tables, standing on the floor, I discovered a huge painting of happy village life. There were pretty little houses, and people of all sizes, dogs fighting over a bone, and cars and trees and flowers and bright colors.  It was a painting of Haiti…if Haiti were a place where things were perfectLater, I found another of Gerard’s village scenes of the same size --and they hang across from each other in my home.

Issa made a contract with Gerard and didn’t want him to sell to other galleries.  Well-known dealer Georges Nader, too, took Gerard’s paintings but also wanted to be sole representative. But such arrangements did not (and still don’t) suit Gerard. He likes to be free to do what he wants, in terms of what he paints, how many paintings he makes, and to whom he sells. 

“God tells me what to paint, the feeling of each painting.” He says that God gives hope to him.  “Inspiration comes from God at all hours, “ he says, and so sometimes he works all night.  Anyone can come to see him working by candlelight when there is no electricity in the one-room home that he shares with a small cat.

During the earthquake, he said his tiny house shook. Walls outside toppled over. He ran out into the courtyard.  Other family members living around the same courtyard ran out of their small houses as well.  No one was hurt and the homes didn’t suffer too much damage. “That’s because I have a good heart. God protects me.  It was the first time I saw a goudou goudou (the popular term for earthquake, meaning rumble-rumble) —and I thought it was the end of the world.”

But the world goes on, day by day.  And from his Montagne Noir home, Gerard continues to paint scenes of Haitian life in the way of his choosing.

Maggie Steber has worked as a documentary photographer in 60 countries. Her work in Haiti spans 25 years. Steber has received the prestigious Alicia Patterson Foundation Grant and the Ernst Haas Grant as well as many other awards and honors. A collection of her Haiti photographs was published by Aperture as Dancing on Fire: Photographs from Haiti. Her work appears regularly in National Geographic, The New York Times, Smithsonian, The Guardian of London and many other American and European publications. 

On December 11, 2019 we received the news that Gerard has passed away.  Rest in peace!

 

Region:
Woman with an Apple
SKU: GF-1702

(Port-au-Prince, Haiti)
Oil on canvas (24" x 19 3/4").  Unstretched canvas.    Painting will be shipped rolled.
c.2005

$550
Gerard Fortuné - Woman in Red
SKU: GF-9511

Gerard Fortuné (Port-au-Prince, Haiti)
Oil on canvas (30x24), 1995.  Canvas unstretched.  Will ship rolled.

$ 550
Gerard Fortuné - Ceremonie for Baron
SKU: GF-1401

(Port-au-Prince)
Oil on canvas (16 x 20), c.2010

$550 (framed)
Gerard Fortuné - Ceremonie for Ghede (#4)
SKU: GF-1404

(Port-au-Prince)
Oil on canvas (24" x 20"), c.2010

$525
Gerard Fortuné - Ceremonie for Baron (#5)
SKU: GF-1405

(Port-au-Prince)
Oil on canvas (24" x 18"), c.2010

$525
Four Women with Melons
SKU: GF-1704

(Port-au-Prince, Haiti)
Oil on canvas (21 1/2" x 26").  Unstretched canvas.  c.2005

$475
Gerard Fortuné - Mambo with Snakes (Ceremonie #6)
SKU: GF-1406

(Port-au-Prince)
Oil on canvas (20" x 16"), c.2010

$450
White Bus
SKU: GF-1705

(Port-au-Prince, Haiti)
Oil on canvas (20" x 20 1/2").  Unstretched canvas.    Painting will be shipped rolled.
c.2005

$425
Demokrasi
SKU: GF-1710

Oil and latex paint on "canvas" (39 1/4” x 59 1/2”), 1994.  
Vintage Gerard from a private collection.
Note:  Painting suffered in several years of storage by the artist (as described below) and has some areas of cracking and chipping of the paint.  Restoration work is recommended once painting is stretched.  Painting will be shipped rolled.

The owner of the painting provides the following notes on its subject and history:
Painted in 1994.  Bought in March 2007.  Gerard repainted some damaged areas prior to sale in 2007.  Artist put date (1994) on painting at the request of Jean Marie Bien Aimé.  The painting is a visual of an Aristide slogan whereby everyone in a democracy is able to share at the bountiful table.  The US soldiers (not UN) are Aristide's helpful agents in the desire for democratization of Haiti, where everyone has a place.  
When the painting was bought Gerard still maintained his support for Aristide.  He had hid the painting because he felt that his political opinion was dangerous.  The different political factions violence has been omnipresent on the Haitian landscape.

 

Price on Request
Democratic Election
SKU: GF-1414

(Port-au-Prince)
Oil on canvas (30 x 40), c.1995
Custom framed.  Requires special shipping.  Estimate can be provided.

Exhibited/Illustrated in Island on Fire, by Jonathan Demme, Edwidge Danticat et. al., plate 161, page 193.

$1500 (framed)
Product Status: 
Sold
Two Riders on White Horse
SKU: GF-1709

Oil on canvas (29 1/2” x 39 1/4”), c.2000.  
Painting will be shipped rolled.

$850
Product Status: 
Sold
SKU: GF-08

Oil on board (32x24), c. 1994

President Jean-Bertrand Aristide depicted as the vodou lwa (spirit) Damballah.
Painted by Gerard Fortune in 1994 or 1995 when Aristide was returned to power by US/UN forces.

$ 750
Product Status: 
Sold
Mother and Child
SKU: GF-1703

(Port-au-Prince, Haiti)
Oil on canvas (27 1/2"  x 22").  Unstretched canvas.  c.2005

$575
Product Status: 
Sold
Woman in Blue
SKU: GF1001

Oil on canvas
(24 x 24), c.1980's

$ 550
Product Status: 
Sold
Gerard Fortuné
SKU: GF-1403

(Port-au-Prince)
Oil on canvas (25 1/2" x 20"), c.2010

$550
Product Status: 
Sold
Gerard Fortuné
SKU: GF1101

Gerard Fortuné (Port-au-Prince, Haiti)
Oil on canvas (20" x 24"), c.1990's

$375
Product Status: 
Sold