Jean Charlot

Jean Charlot is one of those rare fine artists that spans the bridge connecting Europe and the Americas as well as printmaking before and after World War Two. Born in Paris in 1898 he studied informally at the Ecole des Beaux Art in Paris. In 1912 due to the failure of his father's business, he moved to Brittany where he developed a love for folk art and the medium of paper (he was initially compelled to paint on paper, all he could afford at the time) which became a vital medium in his work for the rest of his career. In the last 4 years of his life, he created a massive 58 major prints, producing some of his best work as a mature and experienced artist and printmaker.

With a reverence for the sacred, he commenced his famous Way of the Cross series while fighting for the French in World War One using hammer and chisel to create enormous woodcuts. Describing himself as a born mural painter and with Mexican heritage (on his mothers side) he moved to Mexico in 1920 (leaving France for good) and became an assistant to Diego Rivera and also discovered the art of the famous pioneer of modern Mexican art, Jose Posada. Immersed in the ancient cultures of the Maya and the Aztecs, he served as staff artist for the prestigious Carnegie Institute, illustrating the ancient ruins of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Moving to New York in 1929 to teach at the Art Students League and then Los Angeles in 1933 he met master printer Lynton Kistler where the idea for his famous Picture Book was born. This work with its innovative use of color and primitive subject matter of Mexican indian culture was never before seen and like the innovative lithographs of Pablo Picasso, they had a profound impact on American artists, such as Clinton Adams, which prompted him to seriously consider fine art printmaking. Funded by the Carnegie Institute he worked at the University of Georgia during World War Two and then Colorado till 1949 when he permanently moved to the University of Hawaii. With a lifelong affinity for native culture (starting as a teen in Brittany) he quickly absorbed Hawaiin culture and language making it the focus of his subject matter until his death in 1979.

The works of this exhibit bring together some of the most important and impressive original prints of his career, including an entire set of progressive proofs for his Lauhala serigraph, arguably one of the best prints of his career combining the rigor and experience of a lifetime of printmaking. Works from his famous Picture Book of 1933 and his second Picture Book decades later, demonstrating the power and talent of his art is also represented. Finally examples of his book illustration, for which he was famous, especially illustration of his vintage children's books created in the 1930's and 1940's are proudly put on display by DKH.