Egypt (c1960) Oil on paper 67.5 x 69 cm A History of Time (King Solomon’s Palace) (c1966) Oil on paper 108.5 x 107 Text Painting (1963) Oil on paper 66 x 81.5 cm The Barbados National Art Gallery Committee collection
Francis Griffith was born in St. Michael, Barbados in 1916, and was based there. He died in 2001. He had been painting for two decades by the time his work was first seen by the Barbadian public. In 1987, he submitted two paintings to the 3rd Annual Art Collection Foundation (ACF) Exhibition and Competition and won a purchase award for The Bridge We Travel. The following year he received a second ACF Purchase Award for The Weekend.
Griffith’s first endeavours in painting began in the 1960s. As a seaman travelling throughout the world, first with the British Merchant Marines and later aboard commercial cargo ships, he recorded his experiences. His visits to Egypt and Ethiopia influenced him most profoundly. It was in Egypt that he adopted his artist name, ‘Son et Luimere’ (sic), which he signed to his early works related to his experiences in the Middle East and East Africa. Translated from the French as ‘sound and light (‘Son et Lumiere’ is the correct spelling), Griffith nevertheless interpreted his modified version as ‘Son of the Light.’ Griffith returned to Barbados in 1966 and worked at the newly constructed Hilton Hotel in the engineering department. He continued to paint more narrative depictions of picnics, dances, village scenes etc. which he signed ‘F. Griffith.’ These works, unlike the earlier mystical paintings, he exhibited and made available for sale.
About the work – A History of Time (King Solomon’s Palace)
One of his earliest works, but also his largest and most ambitious painting, A History of Time holds a unique place within Francis Griffith’s oeuvre. This work was painted shortly after his return to a newly independent Barbados, following an absence of more than two decades. During that time he worked as a seaman traveling to over 75 countries. This painting records a banquet for the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. It is an intricate and complex composition in which biblical events converge with images of the World War II Allies represented at the top of the painting. Rows of banquet halls flank a mandala stage in the center with multiple representations of the Kind and Queen. Griffith described it as “A vision of unseen things that you would never believe possible.”