"Turnier's portraits reflect the Haitian's soul whilst her studies are a hymn to tropical nature."
(Peintres Haitiens, Gerald Alexis)
She was a pioneer in Haitian art, whose career spanned 50 years and three countries. Her style incorporated European influences, while always staying true to Haiti's colors, its textures, and its people.
Luce Turnier was born on February 24, 1924, in the southern coastal town of Jacmel, Haiti. After a hurricane ravaged the South of Haiti in 1937, her family moved to Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince -- drawing the teenage Luce closer to a major movement in Haitian art that was about to emerge. In 1945, at the age of 21, she became one of the few female founding artists at Haiti's Centre d'Art, a training center and gallery space that became the cradle of an art movement often referred to as the Haitian Renaissance. One year later, at the age of 22 and without ever having left Haiti, Luce made her international debut when the Museum of Modern Art in Paris included her work in an exhibition sponsored by the United Nations world heritage organization UNESCO .
But almost as soon as Haitian artists burst onto the global scene, stereotypes about what their art should look like began to set in, determining what would and would not sell. Haitian artists were seen as simple and primitive, unaware of any broader art world context. These artists were also overwhelmingly male. As a woman, and as an artist whose work spoke to modernism, Luce never won the same recognition or success as other Centre d'Art painters. Instead, starting in the 1950s, she left Haiti on scholarships to study in New York and then in Paris -- a difficult, isolating time when she was forced to confront a major challenge: how to make art purely for herself, outside the pressures of what looked "Haitian" or what would sell. Around this time, she began to experiment with abstraction and collage.
It was only after returning to Haiti in 1972 that Luce truly became famous within the country and abroad. Today her work is shown in galleries and museums worldwide.
Founding artists of Haiti's Centtre d'Art , 1945
(Luce Turnier 1st row, 2nd from left)