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The Radiant Child

Jean - Michel Basquiat was born December 22, 1960 in Brooklyn, NY to Gerard and Matilde Basquiat. Gerard is from Port-au-Prince Haiti and Matilde was born in Brooklyn of Puerto Rican parents. Jean-Michel was the oldest of three children. He has two sisters Lisane and Jeanine. Jean - Michel shows talent for drawing at an early age. He is always drawing every chance he has. He has a strong interest in comic book and cartoon drawings. His mother Matilde encourages his artistic talents by drawing with him, emphasizing the importance of education and taking him on frequent trips to art museums and the theatre. She is artistic herself having an interest in fashion design and sketching.

A tragic accident occurs in 1968 when Jean-Michel is hit by a car while playing ball in the street. He is hospitalized for one month. While in the hospital his mother gives him a copy of Gray's Anatomy for him to read. The book makes an impression on the young Basquiat and continues to be a reference in his work for many years.

1962, Eighteen Months
Unititled (Hand Anatomy) 1982

At age seven his parents separate and Jean-Michel lives with his father and two sisters in East Flatbush. For two years he lives in Puerto Rico due to a job promotion his father receives. After another promotion, the Basquiat's return to Brooklyn where Jean-Michel attends many public schools. Jean-Michel is having problems at home and in school that forces him to run away. He does this a couple of times with his father always looking for him and eventually brining him home. Jean-Michel is transferred to the City-as-School an alternative high school where work-study internships are accepted as credit toward a high school degree. The program was designed for gifted and talented children who find the traditional educational process difficult.

Basquait meets Al Diaz a graffitist at the school and the two become close friends. Both were the most popular students there and the ones who caused the most trouble. They got involved with a drama group called Family Life Theater and developed a fictional character named SAMO. In 1978 Jean-Michel left home and began living on the street. He has a fascination with stardom and "burning out" like his heroes Jimi Hendrix, Charlie Parker and Janis Joplin.

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