Art in Bermuda

The beauty of Bermuda has inspired artists who, in turn, have created spectacular works of art.

Bermuda possesses certain distinct characteristics — unique architecture, exotic foliage, breathtaking vistas and a quality of light unparalleled in the world. It is amazing how this variety creates such a diversity of styles, mediums and evolution in the arts, and not only the visual arts, but such luminaries as musician John Lennon, writer Mark Twain and playwright Eugene O’Neill, to name a few, have all gained inspiration from Bermuda. One of the earliest works of art Bermuda may have inspired was William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” written between 1610 and 1611. It is believed that the wreck of the Sea Venture in 1609 and the subsequent trials endured by its captain Sir George Somers directly influenced Shakespeare’s plot line. Since then, Bermuda has been a beacon for creative giants throughout history, spanning generations, mediums and interpretations.

As one of the most remote inhabited islands on earth, the lack of pollutants in the atmosphere has allowed the island to enjoy a pure, untainted quality of light unrivalled anywhere else. This has proven to be a challenge, as many an artist has expressed frustration in capturing the island’s elusive light; but when successful, it is glorious. It is this characteristic that creates the unreal blues and turquoises that one finds in the colour of the water, the vibrant reds and oranges of the sunsets, or the lush greens from the flora. As Charles Hawthorne, 1920s American Impressionist, said, “The colour of the sound and sea are indescribable—all the varying shades of emerald, emeraude, cerulean and deep blue…” E. Ambrose Webster, whose Providencetown, Massachusetts, art school was the rival to the more conservative Hawthorne, declared, “Sunlight near the equator loses its pale violet tones of the northern latitudes and approaches an incandescence.” Spanning canvas, literature, film and the stage, Bermuda’s scenic beauty is beyond comparison.

The traditional geometric architecture is another source of artistic inspiration, attracting many of the modernist artists from the early 1900s, such as French cubist Albert Gleizes, who was captivated by the rectangular towers of Government House. Another early 20th- century artist who was inspired by Bermuda’s architecture was Marsden Hartley, who painted Movement, Bermuda 1917. In this revolutionary piece there is hidden a pink cottage that showcases the epitome of what is recognised as distinctly “Bermudian” today.

As a whole, the Bermudian artistic experience has received the most international attention due to the works of the great Winslow Homer and the two vanguards of American modern art: Marsden Hartley and Charles Demuth. Whether it’s the past, present or future, the artistic experience in Bermuda is as strong today as it ever was and doesn’t seem to lose its charm no matter how many times it is interpreted through the generations. Looking forwards, Bermuda’s artistic evolution is ongoing, and with such a prestigious history as its foundation, who knows where it will go next? One thing is certain: Whatever direction it takes will aid in shaping the community and culture, propelling us into a new age.

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