Van Gogh •
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||Trinidad and Tobago
Geoffrey Holder, born in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad of mixed French, African, and
Irish descent, was raised in an environment surrounded by art. His
grandfather was a French painter and his elder brother is, like Holder himself, a painter and a dancer. Holder attended the Queen's Royal College and taught himself to paint at the age of fifteen when a minor illness kept him at home and gave him the opportunity to "steal" his brother's paints. He painted a dozen works and hung them around the family living room. Though furious at first his brother soon changed his mind and invited people to see the exhibition, which was promptly removed to the Public Library in Trinidad where it enjoyed great success. Encouraged by the sale of ten paintings, young Holder continued to paint and for the next several years Trinidad's library gave him a show each year. In 1953, after a year in Puerto Rico, Holder brought the ballet company, which he had formed, to New York, supporting himself and his dancers by selling his paintings. By 1954 he had his first successful one-man show in New York at the Barone Gallery. In 1957 after several more shows he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in art and "just painted."
Although he is perhaps better known in New York as a dancer (he was the first dancer at the Metropolitan Opera), Holder is passionately devoted to
painting in oil and to drawing. In addition to easel paintings he has executed two large murals, both in Trinidad-one at the Trinidad-Hilton Hotel and one at the University of the West Indies. He has also designed costumes for ballets and in 1958 worked on costumes, sets and choreography for a ballet on a Brazilian theme for the Rebekah Harkness Foundation. Holder's style is Impressionistic and naturally so, he says, since the general art influence in Trinidad stems from French settlers and from the people of the French Caribbean island of Martinique who have come to the British island. According to Holder's own history, this influence was strengthened by the work of his grandfather, Louis Ephraim, and by that of his brother, Boscoe Holder. His work is free-flowing, very rhythmical, tropically warm and brightly clear in color, full of the brilliance of nature. He continues to paint and to exhibit in both New York and Paris.