Pioneering artist Dorothy Henriques-Wells has died

Thursday, March 15, 2018

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A service celebrating the life of pioneering artist Dorothy Henriques-Wells, who died peacefully at her home in Florida on March 5, is scheduled for St Judes Anglican Church in Stony Hill on Friday, March 23.

Henriques-Wells, who was 92, was born in 1926 to Llewellyn and Lilieth Henriques. Her father was a jeweller, while her mother was a floral and landscape painter.

By age 12 Henriques-Wells's artistic inheritance was evident and she was sent to art classes (1939-1943) given by noted Eastern European painter and sculptor Koren der Harootian.

Harootian taught others who would become the forerunners of Jamaican art, among them Albert Huie, who studied art as a profession and created important representational works that depicted their world.

Henriques-Wells excelled in fine art at Wolmer's High School for Girls and studied at Ontario College of Art in Toronto, Canada, from 1947-1951.

On completion of her studies, Henriques-Wells returned home to Jamaica and served as painter and art teacher at St Hugh's High School, Excelsior, Boys' Town, the Housewives Association, YWCA, and later at St Andrew High School for Girls, and Meadowbrook High School . She also taught certificate students at The University of the West Indies, Mona, and the Mico Teachers' College in a teaching career that spanned over 20 years.

In 1956 she married Dr Carl F Wells, a veterinary surgeon and together they had three children — James, Mary, and Margaret.

Her works on paper are expressive, often large and sensitive to light and space. In the publication, The Art of Jamaica, a prelude by Dr Wayne Lawrence noted that her confidence required no preliminary sketching for her watercolours. She draws and paints only with her brush in a beautiful free flowing line. For those who know the watercolour medium, it's very difficult to do that.

“It has to stay fresh, bright and clear… it's such a beautiful, immediate and wonderful medium,” she was reported as saying.

Henriques-Wells' work is represented in Jamaica's National Collection and private and corporate collections worldwide. In her 50-year career as an artist she participated in a long list of group and solo exhibitions including the Institute of Jamaica's Annual All Island shows, Victoria Craft Market Tercentenary, the Tom Redcam Library, US Universities of Minnesota and Morgan State College in Baltimore, with the Jamaica Tourist Board in Chicago and New York, The Gallery, Constant Spring, Jamaica Citizens Bank, Bank of Jamaica.

In 1968-1970, her commercial gallery, The Art Wheel, represented the best local artists and crafts people, simultaneously Norwegian Caribbean Shipping line contracted her services as a Caribbean artist to paint some 360 works on paper that depicted Caribbean life, characters young and old, scenery, vegetation, flowers and landscapes, that would be permanently mounted on three ships, The MS Starward, MS Skyward and MS Southward — a mammoth and rare commercial undertaking which took her two years to complete.

During the emerging Jamaican art scene, she participated in the 'International Women Artists' at Olympia Art Gallery, in exhibitions at the National Gallery of Jamaica including the 1976 special exhibition called 'Five Centuries of Art in Jamaica since its discovery'.

Henriques-Wells became one of the founding members of the Jamaican Artists and Craftsmen Guild. In the late 1970s her husband and family migrated for a period, first to Barbados where she was commissioned by the Caribbean Development Bank to do a portrait of St Lucian Nobel Prize winner in Economics, Sir Arthur Lewis, which hangs today in the institution.

While living in Washington, DC, she participated in group shows at the World Bank and in solo exhibitions. A sojourn to Senegal marked a prolific period of inspiration. There the beautiful culture and people of Senegal appeared to her as walking works of art themselves and her paintings from this period were an important climatic time for her work.

In 1987, the Government of Jamaica honoured Henriques-Wells with the Institute of Jamaica's Silver Musgrave Medal for Art. She continued to exhibit at the Mutual Life Gallery and was represented in the New York City gallery. In January 2016 at age 90, she had her last exhibition in Wynwood, Miami.

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