art in all its forms

art in all its forms


Trinidad's artist of slavery: Richard Bridgens

Richard Bridgens, 'West India Scenery'


The English artist Richard Bridgens lived and worked in Trinidad in the 1830s, a generation before Cazabon, and drew and commented on what he found here. He took not only an artistic but also an anthropological interest in the sugar estates and the people who worked on them. Nevertheless, his work has either been completely overlooked or else dismissed as pro-slavery polemic that offers little more than caricature. But it is nowincreasingly being recognised by historians and art historians as an important visual record of the last years of slavery. Judy Raymond is researching Bridgens’s life and work in an attempt to discover more about the meaning of his drawings and resolve these contradictions.

Judy Raymond has a BA in Literae Humaniores (Classics) from Hertford College, Oxford, and an MA in Afro-American and Afro-Caribbean Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies at London University. She has worked as a journalist for over 20 years and currently edits Caribbean Beat magazine and writes a parliamentary column for the Sunday Express. She has written biographical studies of the Trinidadian jeweler Barbara Jardine and fashion designer Meiling. She has recently published an essay on the nineteenth-century painter Michel Jean Cazabon in the December 2010 issue of the Caribbean Review of Books


Bridgens is a very shadowy figure, and there isn’t a lot of information on him anywhere. He knew and worked with a really stellar group of people, but I suspect his problem was that he lacked any talent for self-promotion. For instance, he did important work on the interior of Sir Walter Scott’s house, Abbotsford, but the first couple of times he crops up in Scott’s letters, it’s as “Mr Buggins” (a rather hobbit-like variant of his name). He didn’t always show up on the radar. 

READ a feature on Raymond's research at the Caribbean Review of Books here

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