An Indirect Danish Connection
The recent passing of Leo Carty, a beloved artist who had made his home in St. Croix since 1976, was mourned by many in this community and abroad, not least in Denmark, where he with help from friends found inspiration for his numerous paintings of island scenes of people and buildings in settings around the end of the 19th century.
This fine artist was born in 1931 in Harlem, New York of Trinidadian parents. He showed artistic talent from an early age, receiving a scholarship to the Museum of Modern Art School for Children, enabling him to graduate from New York's High School of Music and Art, and later attend prominent institutions Cooper Union and Pratt Institute. During the Korean War, the U.S. Air Force availed itself of his talent by having him illustrate manuals and safety posters. In New York, he started a greeting card company Anton Studios, using his own illustrations. He became a skilled cartoonist and contributed syndicated cartoons for a large number of African- American newspapers.
It was also as a cartoonist that he became known to his St. Croix audience after moving here. Our local St. Croix Avis sponsored a small publication of his cartoons,"A Virgin Islands Commentary" in 1981. His interest in island history brought him to join the St. Croix Friends of Denmark Society, which led to his first of several visits to Denmark that helped inspire his later works. During his visits he was introduced to the romantic, impressionist styles of what was known as the Skagen artists active around the turn of the century, named for an artist colony at the northern tip of Denmark. This helped shape his impressive canvases of scenes from island culture, notably families of color in their Sunday best at the entrance of the various historic churches of the island. These enjoy great popularity and were reproduced as limited edition prints. His mural triptych of Virgin Island History decorates the wall at the Almeric L. Christian Federal Building in Christiansted, and a number of his paintings are displayed at the Buccaneer Hotel east of town. His discovery of Hugo Larsen, a Danish artist that spent the years of 1904 to 1907 here depicting the lifestyles of the local population, came rather late, but he found in Larsen's work an affinity in styles and subject matter that surprised him.
Leo Carty is gone, but his legacy remains with us. In tribute to this fine artist, the Fort Frederik Museum in Frederiksted is dedicating an exhibit to him and his works, continuing through October. We hail the memory of a fine artist and much loved person.
Leo Carty was an inspiring art teacher at numerous schools and special programs on St. Croix, including three generations of one family.