Cazabon's Trinidad: New Perspectives on Landscape Drawing

Michel Jean Cazabon (1813–1888), one of Trinidad’s most acclaimed artists, spent much of his career capturing the island’s verdant scenery. This is the first exhibition in the United States dedicated to the landscape painter and draftsman. Born in Trinidad to free Black immigrants from Martinique, Cazabon was educated in England and trained as an artist in Paris before he returned to the Caribbean, where he honed his practice inspired by his surroundings.

In the 1850s Cazabon produced two albums of landscape drawings of Trinidad for lithographic publication. Now in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art, these fresh ink and wash drawings celebrate the Trinidadian landscape, from its lush bamboo forests to its rocky coastlines and architectural landmarks. Cazabon depicted not only places of touristic interest but also sites of British colonial control, including sugar plantations, barracks, and government buildings. Rendered primarily in black and brown inks with touches of white, these detailed drawings vividly capture the complex landscapes of mid-nineteenth-century Trinidad.

A complementary display of monochrome landscape drawings will contextualize Cazabon’s work. Including works from the YCBA collection by George Chinnery (1774–1852), John Constable (1776–1837), Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788), and Samuel Palmer (1805–1881), the display will trace the history of British landscape drawings from their origins in topographic representation to their expressive, experimental use in the nineteenth century. This presentation will demonstrate how artists expertly captured the natural world without color.

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Michel Jean Cazabon, La Digue Maraval (detail), 1851, pen and brush with brown ink and washes over graphite with touches of white gouache on buff paper, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection