"Jean Charlot: artist and scholar". Karen Thompson. Jean Charlot: a retrospective. Thomas Klobe, editor. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Art Gallery. 1990.
This essay is based on recollections of the Charlot family, publications (see Bibliography) and other material contained in the Charlot Collection, Hamilton Library, University of Hawaiʻi, the catalogue Jean Charlot: Books, Portfolios and Murals by Zohmah Charlot, and a chronology compiled by Lawrence P. Hurlburt. All quotations are Jean Charlot's unless otherwise noted.
Born in Paris, Louis Henri Jean Charlot (1898-1979) was descended from those he would later refer to as "sundry exotic ancestors" (Charlot 1954:99). His father, Henri, was a French businessman, free-thinker and Bolshevik sympathizer born and reared in Russia. Anna, his mother, an artist and a devout Catholic, was the daughter of Louis Goupil, a native of Mexico City. Charlot admiringly describes his maternal grandfather in his earlier years as ". . .a fine rider, a coleador who could hold a running bull by passing its tail between his knee and the saddle of his galloping horse" (Charlot  1967:178). Goupil, of French and Mexican Indian stock, married Sarah Louise (Luisita) Melendez, a Jewish woman of Spanish descent and subsequently moved from Mexico to Paris in the late 1860s.
Also living in Paris was Jean Charlot's great-uncle, Eugène Goupil, a collector of Mexican works of art. Jean, who began to draw around age two, grew up surrounded by pre-Hispanic antiquities. Years later (1926-28) he would be commissioned as staff artist for the Carnegie Institution expedition to Chichén Itzá, Yucatán, and would publish books and articles on Mexican art and produce paintings, graphics and murals with Mexican themes.
Charlot was educated at the Lycée Condorcet (where he won the French national scholastic boxing championship in the medium weight division in 1912) and studied informally at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Soon after the onset of World War I and the failure of Henri Charlot's import-export firm, which did business primarily with Germany, the family, in much reduced financial circumstances, moved to the village of St. Mandé. Henri died shortly thereafter.
In the French countryside near his home and during travels in Brittany, the teenage Charlot painted small landscapes in oil on paper and pursued what was to become a lifelong interest in folk imagery. Drafted into the army near the end of the war, he became an artillery lieutenant. An officer in the Senegalese Troops, Charlot was given the command when his predecessors had been killed in battle. He was young and considered expendable. While encamped at Sézanne, he began drawings for the fifteen print woodcut series Chemin de Croix, Way of the Cross. Charlot entered Germany with the French army on Christmas Day 1918. During the French occupation of the Rhineland Charlot, bivouacked between Mannheim and Cologne, had the opportunity to view paintings by 16th century German masters, especially Stephan Lochner and Mathias Grünewald which ". . .were a big influence, but," he remarked, "I always go back to folk art" (In Morse 1976:viii).
The Chemin de Croix was cut in Landau, Bavaria, in 1920. "The stations were large woodcuts on pearwood, cut in part with hammer and chisel, and closer in technique to carving than to engraving" (Charlot 1972, vol. I:228). The portfolio was printed in an edition of fifteen at Chaumontel, France, after Charlot was discharged from the army. In 1920 Chemin de Croix was shown at an exhibition of liturgical arts held at the Louvre, along with three designs for liturgical textiles and two friezes in watercolor (1/10th scale) for decoration of a new church in a Paris suburb that Charlot claimed was his "first serious attempt at mural painting" ( 1967:178).
In his teens, Charlot had become one of a Catholic group that called itself Gilde Notre-Dame ("Parisian adolescents (who) used to gather in a crypt") made up of sculptors, stained glass makers, embroiderers and decorators (1972, vol. I:285). The resumption after the war of what Charlot calls his "career as a French liturgical artist" was cut short by the cancellation of the commission for the church mural just after he had completed the scale drawings. This "first heartbreak at the realization that a born mural painter is helpless without a wall. . ." ( 1967:178) was one of the factors that precipitated a journey to Mexico in 1920.
Charlot comments, "On this first trip to Mexico I did nothing at all. I was stuck aesthetically in 18th century France." Later he wrote: "My life in France was on the whole rational, national, obeying this often heard dictum that a Frenchman is a man who ignores geography. There were though, simultaneously, un-French elements at work. Russian, sephardim, Aztec ancestors, warmed my blood to adventure. In art, I accepted as part of my patrimony, the monstrous chubby forms of Indian idols, the squatty masked heroes of Mexican cosmogony, without letting go a whit of those other models, Poussin's Eliezer and Rebecca, and Ingres' Apotheosis of Homer" (Charlot, 1954:103). After a brief return to Paris where he exhibited paintings, including L'Amitié, in the 1921 Salon d'Automne, Charlot was again off to Mexico, "for good," this time with his mother.
In the article, "Mexico of the Poor," written in 1922 in French and translated by Diego Rivera into Spanish (published in a slightly different version in English in Mexican Life, March 1926), Charlot records some of his early impressions of Mexico: "At six o'clock in the morning, I was in the streets. Automobiles and ladies were still asleep, and the true features of the town emerged. Beautiful beings people the street like Ladies of Guadalupe innumerable. They move noiselessly, feet flat to the ground, antique beauty come to life. The wealthier quarters are as empty and soiled as a music hall at noon, buy everywhere else, among those low-lying houses, cubic and freshly daubed, processions are staged. At first glance the crowd is the color of dust. Flesh and cloth, both worn out with use, melt into this grey which is the very livery of humbleness. Eye and mind soon learn to focus, and this race, its confidence won, attests to its beauty through fabrics, its straw, its flesh" (Charlot 1972, vol. II:99).
In the Mexico City suburb, Coyoacán, Charlot sometimes painted at the open-air school, an annex of the Academy of San Carlos. He shared a studio with Fernando Leal, one of the founders (with Rivera, Siqueiros and Guerrero) of the Syndicate of Revolutionary Painters, Sculptors and Engravers of Mexico, dedicated, according to their Resolutions, to "do work useful to Mexico's popular classes in their struggle, meanwhile producing an art aesthetically and technically great" ( 1967:243).
Charlot produced a series of small woodcuts and oils, primarily portraits. Many of his contemporaries in Mexico—David Alfaro Siqueiros, Manuel Martinez Pintao, José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, Xavier Guerrero, Nacho Asúnsolo, Henrietta Shore, Sergei Eisenstein, Anita Brenner, Edward Weston and Tina Modotti—are represented in portraits by Charlot.
For two years Charlot concentrated on mural paintings in fresco. He had become an assistant to Diego Rivera, the leading figure of the Mexican socio-political school of painting, who in 1922 was working at the Escuela Preparatoria (the National Preparatory School in Mexico City) on an encaustic titled Creation. A month after beginning at the Preparatoria Charlot started work on a mural of his own. In The Mexican Mural Renaissance, Charlot wrote that in Paris he had fallen in love with the texture, transparency, and lack of "cuisine" (lack of clichés or technical trickery) of the portable frescoes of Marcel Lenoir and had decided from the first to do his Mexican mural in true fresco. "I borrowed from Diego the French treatise of Paul Baudoin, founder of the Fontainebleau fresco school, and at the same time cultivated and probed the ways of Mexican masons and Mexican mortars, an easy feat in the Preparatoria building where a wing was still in the process of construction" ( 1967:181). Charlot's The Massacre in the Main Temple, 14' x 26', is the first work of the twentieth century Mexican mural movement completed in true fresco.
Diego Rivera and his assistants, nicknamed "Dieguitos" (little Diegos), were next commissioned to paint the walls of the Ministry of Education in Mexico City, an enormous building with two courts. Charlot trained masons in the preparation of walls for fresco and instructed the other artists in technique. Rivera began in the ground floor "Court of Labor," and the second floor "Court of the Fiestas" was consigned to Xavier Guerrero, Amado de la Cueva and Charlot to decorate; in Charlot's words ". . .a first try at communal painting" (1972, vol. I:391). Rivera eventually took over this court too, and all but three frescoes are his. Charlot painted nine decorative shields and three murals (each 16 1/3' x 7 2/3') of Mexican folk scenes: Cargadores (Burden Bearers), Lavanderas (Washerwomen), and Danza de los Listones (Dance of the Ribbons). The latter was destroyed by Rivera in 1924 to make space for his triple panel composition Market Place.
The following year Charlot completed a mural, Shield of the National University of Mexico, with Eagle and Condor, at the Pan American Library. In 1923 he published his first article on Mexican art, on the work of the sculptor Manuel Martínez Pintao (El Democrata, August 5, 1923), and participated in an independent group exhibition in New York, his first in the United States.
In what is sometimes called his "dark period," Charlot produced more than four dozen small easel paintings (c. 10" x 14") in oil on canvas of Mexican subjects. Several of these subdued works were studies of a Mexican Indian woman, Luciana (Luz) Jiménez, a friend and favorite model. Luz instructed him in the Aztec language, Náhuatl, and furthered his interest and knowledge of Mexican folk culture. He created woodcuts for publication in periodicals such as Irradiador (Enlightener), and to illustrate the poems of German-born Mexican List Arzubide, Esquina: Poemas (Mexico City: D. F. Libreria, 1923), and Manuel Maples Arce, Urbe: Super-poema bolchevique en 5 cantos (Mexico City: Andres Botas & Hijo, 1924). The latter author was a good friend and leader of the Estridentismo (lit. "strident") group of avant-garde writers and poets. Charlot became secretary of this organization. He also introduced some symbolist French poetry into Mexico. From 1924-26 Charlot was art editor of the influential periodical, Mexican Folk-ways, publishing such articles as "Aesthetics of Indian Dance."
In 1925, Charlot in the company of Frances Toor, Anita Brenner and Luz Jiménez' family, made a pilgrimage to Chalma, a Catholic shrine at a pre-Hispanic cave-site sacred to the Indian God of the Caves, ". . .a very long trek—three days more or less from Milpa Alta, with two nights on the way" (In Morse 1976:157). Charlot drew profound personal and artistic inspiration from the folk-religious activities he observed on this pilgrimage. Works from the mid-1920s include several paintings and graphics on Chalma and other Indian themes. He illustrated several books by Anita Brenner, a native of Mexico and the author of socio-cultural histories of the country. Charlot "discovered" the popular artist José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913), and produced the study, "A Precursor of the Modern Art Movement, the Printmaker Posada," which was published in Revista de Revistas, August 30, 1925. Also in 1925 Charlot exhibited in the Mexican section at the Pan American Union in Los Angeles. The following year, there was an exhibition of his paintings at the Art Center in New York.
An opportunity to broaden his knowledge of Mayan history, culture and customs came about when Charlot served as staff artist of the Carnegie Institution expedition to the archeological site Chichén Itzá, Yucatán, by Earl Morris, Jean Charlot and Anne Axtell Morris (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution Publication 406) was published May 21, 1931. Charlot later noted it was "perhaps the last such archeological publication to be illustrated mainly with drawings instead of photographs" (In Morse 1976:46). Two years later, he completed a series of lithographs with the printer George Miller, the most ambitious of which, Great Builders I and Great Builders II, are an imaginative reconstruction of the building of the temples at Chichén Itzá. Charlot's archeological renderings and descriptions were also included in A Preliminary Study of the Ruins of Coba, Quintana Roo, Mexico, by J. Eric Thompson, Harry E.D. Pollock and Jean Charlot (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution, Publication no. 242, March 1932).
After the completion of the Yucatán project in 1928 Charlot and his mother moved to New York where he rented a small apartment on the top floor of 42 Union Square from the artist Morris Kantor. The apartment was unheated, which probably contributed to the death of his mother from pneumonia in January, 1929. In New York Charlot's work was shown in the Mexican government-sponsored group exhibition at the Art Center in 1928, and in a retrospective at the Art Students League in 1930. He also participated in Mexican group exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art and the Fogg Museum, and illustrated The Book of Christopher Columbus (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1930) by the poet Paul Claudel, whom Charlot first knew in Washington while Claudel was French ambassador to the United States from 1927-33.
On a brief trip to Mexico in 1931, Charlot met his future wife, Dorothy Zohmah Day, who was visiting Ione Robinson, a fellow art student on a Guggenheim scholarship in Mexico. Returning to New York, Charlot taught at the Art Students League in 1931-32 and painted portraits and Mexican and religious scenes. Illustrations of his work in various media from 1924-31 appeared in Jean Charlot, Peintres Nouveaux, August 1932, with an introduction by Paul Claudel. Edward Weston, by Merle Armitage and Jean Charlot (New York: E Weyhe) was published in 1932.
During a visit to Zohmah Day in Los Angeles in 1933, Charlot met the printer Lynton R. Kistler and, after completing a color lithograph with Kistler, proposed the production of Picture Book, "a repertory of motifs I had used up to then," done on offset lithograph presses. Picture Book, devoted almost entirely to Mexican themes and containing thirty-two color lithographs (each c. 6" x 8") in an edition of five hundred, was published by the Will A. Kistler Co. in 1933.
At the same time, Charlot produced several other lithographs on stone and taught at Chouinard School of Art. He had an opportunity to visit with his close friend, photographer Edward Weston, whom he had known earlier in Mexico, before returning to New York in April, 1934. In New York he completed a WPA/FAP-commissioned wall painting in fresco (since destroyed) titled Head Crowned with Laurels (16" x 20"), symbolizing education, in a niche at the entrance hall of the Strauben-Muller Textile High School. In 1935, he began teaching at the small, progressive Florence Cane School of Art at Rockefeller Center, where he conducted classes in fresco and lithography.
In the following two years, 1936-37, Charlot continued to teach at Cane School while producing a variety of works. Among these are the series Tortilleras and Lavanderas and other paintings on Mexican themes, and twenty-three portrait illustrations, in original lithographs, for Hilaire Belloc's Characters of the Reformation (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1936). Charlot also compiled a catalogue raisonné of his graphic productions to date. In these years, fourteen large easel paintings of the Way of the Cross were completed, which were later installed at St. Cyprian Catholic Church in River Grove, Illinois. In the summer of 1937 he lectured at Columbia University and taught at the Art Students League. In October, 1937, he arrived for another stay in Los Angeles.
Teaching and lecturing occupied much of Charlot's time in 1938: at Chouinard Art School, Stendahl Galleries, Disney Studios ("Pictures and Picture Making") and, in New York, at the Art Students League, Columbia University and the Brooklyn Museum. A Nativity painting was commissioned for the cover of TIME magazine (December 26, 1938), and Charlot did magazine illustration work of Commonweal. For thirty years, from 1938-68, Charlot was an artist for the New York publishing company Sheed and Ward, producing many book covers and illustrations.
In May 1939, Jean Charlot and Zohmah Day were married in San Francisco. "It was a long courtship," commented Charlot. "Eight years. We were always in different places" (In Morse 1976:76). In the summer he taught at the University of Iowa and while working on lithographs there became friendly with Grant Wood. Two murals were completed in 1939: St. Christopher (fresco, 10' x 2') at the University of Iowa and Life of St. Bridget, in oil on canvas (two panels, each 6 3/4' x 16 1/2'), for the Church of St. Bridget in Peapack, New Jersey. A series of lithographs, developed after pencil, watercolor, and oil studies, illustrated Prosper Mérimée's Carmen (New York: Limited Editions Club, 1940). Process prints in three colors after pen and ink drawings illustrated the Limited Editions Club's Henry the Sixth, Part III, by William Shakespeare (New York: 1940).
Charlot also did illustrations for Harpers Magazine and Hearst Publications. Teaching included classes at the Art Students League, the College of Notre Dame and the University of Iowa summer session, where he demonstrated the fresco technique in a mural Mother with Cradle in the Fine Arts Building. Separate exhibitions, "Recent Paintings," primarily of Mexican subject matter, and "Religious Paintings," were presented at the Bonestell Gallery in New York. A collection of various articles by Charlot, Art from the Mayans to Disney (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1939), was published. The Charlot's first child, Ann Maria, was born in 1940 followed a year later by a son, John Pierre. Also in 1940, Charlot applied for and was accorded American citizenship. A dual citizen of the United States and France, he retained passports from both countries. Charlot contributed to the (World War II) French war effort by working in a New York liaison office taking orders for military equipment. When France fell to the Germans, he received an official letter of discharge.
The years from 1941-44 were spent as artist-in-residence at the University of Georgia, Athens, at invitation of Lamar Dodd, who had been Charlot's student at the Art Students League. Funded by the Carnegie Institution, Charlot was required only to give informal art instruction to students and was primarily involved in local mural projects. These included Cotton Gin (oil on canvas, 4 1/2' x 11') at the McDonough, Georgia Post Office, and Visual Arts, Drama, Music (fresco, 9' x 46' overall) in the Fine Arts Building, University of Georgia. Several months of preparatory work was necessary for the latter project though the actual painting took Charlot and his assistants only eleven days. Three fresco murals, Time Discloseth All Things, Cortez Lands in Mexico, and Paratroopers Land in Sicily (11' x 66' overall) were painted in the corridor of the Journalism Building, University of Georgia. Inspiration and Study, (fresco panels, each 5' x 5'), were painted at the New Studies Building, Black Mountain College, North Carolina, where Charlot taught a summer session. In 1945 a book, Charlot Murals in Georgia, with an introduction by Lamar Dodd, photographs by Eugene Payor and commentaries by Jean Charlot, was published by the University of Georgia Press. A third child, Martin Day, was born to the Charlots in Georgia in 1944.
In summer 1942, Charlot was an instructor in art history at the University of California, Berkeley. He participated in the Corcoran Biennial and exhibitions at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., the University of Louisiana, the Stendhal Gallery, Los Angeles, and the Weyhe Gallery in New York. Among various periodical and book illustrations were twelve color lithographs for Margaret Wise Brown's A Child's Good Night Book (New York: William R. Scott, Inc., first edition, 1943). In the spring semester 1944 Charlot was artist-in-residence at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.
A Guggenheim Fellowship award for the book The Mexican Mural Renaissance (New Haven: Yale University Press, first edition 1963), required Charlot to return to Mexico in 1945 to research the topic. He remained there for two years renewing friendships with Mexican artists—especially Carlos Mérida, Alfredo Zalce, and Pablo O'Higgins. A third son, Peter Francis, was born in 1946. The theme of mother and child in a Mexican folk environment is a favorite of Charlot's (Illus. p. 130). This motif was depicted in a 1946 series of lithographs titled Mexihkanantli (Mexican Mother). Charlot was further instructed in the Náhuatl language at the Museum of Anthropology and wrote a puppet play in Náhuatl, Mowentihke Chalman (Pilgrims of Chalma), for use by the Mexican government in educating non-Spanish speaking village people. (Published in Mele, Honolulu: 1969, in Náhuatl, Spanish, and English).
Upon his return to the United States, Charlot taught at Chouinard in the summer of 1947, following which he assumed the directorship of the School of Art at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, remaining in this position until 1949. He served as guest curator for the anniversary exhibition of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, "American Printmaking, 1913-1947: A Retrospective Exhibition," at the Brooklyn Museum and also wrote the introductory essay to the catalogue.
An invitation to create a fresco at the University of Hawaiʻi, Manoa, brought Charlot to Honolulu in 1949 where he painted Relation of Man and Nature in Old Hawaiʻi (10' x 29') on the first floor of the administration building, Bachman Hall. He accepted a position as professor of art at the University, and Hawaiʻi became the Charlot family's permanent home. Charlot found himself greatly attracted to the culture of the native Hawaiian, just as he had been interested in the folk aspects of the residents of rural France and the indigenous peoples of Mexico. He studied Hawaiian history, customs, and religion and learned the Hawaiian language, writing plays in Hawaiian: Na Lono Elua (Two Lonos), 1965, a three-act bilingual play about Captain Cook, also published as a one-act play in English, and Laukiamanuikahiki, (Snare That Lures a Farflung Bird), a short bilingual play in Hawaiian and English in 1964. (The latter was published with Two Lonos by the University of Hawaiʻi Press in 1976 with the title Two Hawaiian Plays.) Three Plays of Ancient Hawaiʻi, in English are Na'auao (The Light Within), U'i A U'i (Beauty Meets Beauty), and Moa A Mo'i (Chicken into King), also with illustrations by Charlot (Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 1963).
From 1949 to 1979 Charlot created almost six hundred easel paintings, several hundred prints, and thirty-six works of art in public places in fresco, ceramic tile and sculpture. He taught summer sessions at several schools, among them San Diego State College (1950), Arizona State University (1951) and the University of Notre Dame (1955 and 1956). In 1950 he was made faculty advisor to the Newman Club, the Catholic student organization of the University of Hawaiʻi.
Selected exhibitions include the Charlot retrospective, "Fifty Years, 1916-66," at the Honolulu Academy of Arts (1966); a retrospective in his honor, "Obras Pictoricas de Jean Charlot," at the Museo del Arte Moderno in Mexico City (1968), which was part of the cultural program of the XIX Olympiad; "Paintings, Drawings and Lithographs by Jean Charlot," at the Georgia Museum of Arts, University of Georgia (1976); and the "Jean Charlot Retrospective," (1976), sponsored by the Hawaiʻi State Foundation on Culture and the Arts to honor the artist on his 78th birthday and to mark the publication of the catalogue raisonné, Jean Charlot's Prints, by Peter Morse (Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 1976).
The Honolulu Advertiser and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin published approximately 160 articles of art criticism written by Charlot from 1952-71. Other publications by Charlot include Choris and Kamaehameha (Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1958); Mexican Art and the Academy of San Carlos, 13785-1915 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1962); José Clemente Orozco, El Artista en Nueva York: Caras a Jean Charlot y Textos Ineditos (Mexico City: Siglo Veintiuno, 1971, and the English version, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1974); and an anthology of Charlot's journal publications, An Artist on Art: Collected Essays of Jean Charlot (2 vols., Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 1972). He created weekly cartoons for the Catholic paper The Sun-Herald in 1950-51 and, from 1957-79, weekly syndicated Catholic cartoons. An anthology of Charlot's newspaper cartoons for the Catholic press, Cartoons Catholic: Mirth and Meditation from the Brush and Brain of Jean Charlot, appeared in 1978.
Via Crucis, a lithographic series intended for display in smaller churches, was printed by Lynton Kistler in 1956. Fifteen color lithographs were created by Charlot to illustrate Thornton Wilder's The Bridge of San Luis Rey (New York: Limited Editions Club, 1962). Picture Book II, published by Kistler in 1972, is a print portfolio with thirty-two lithographs (6" x 8") in nine colors of Mexican, Hawaiian, Fijian and religious motifs. Also printed in 1972 was a series of etchings made of images Charlot had created in sculpture for the Moanalua Intermediate School in Honolulu, and the following year he completed a hotel commission of eight serigraphs with Fijian themes. In 1978, Kistler printed the five-color lithographs, Kei Viti: Melanesian Images and a new edition of Chemin de Croix from the original 1920 woodblocks.
Charlot's talents were also realized in the medium of sculpture. Among the works in public collections is a statue of Father Damien (45") cast in 1967 in bronze and installed at St. Anthony's Church, Wailuku, Maui, in 1980. With Evelyn Giddings, he created an 8' copper plate champlevé enamel sculpture for Moanalua Intermediate School in Honolulu titled In Praise of Petroglyphs (1972-73). Charlot sculptures in ceramic are Madonna and Child (5') at St. Francis Hospital, Honolulu (1959); Sacred Heart (7'5"), St. William's Church, Hanalei, Kaua'i (1969); Ali'i Nui, or High Chief (9'), Ala Moana Hotel, Honolulu (1971) and Madonna and Child (15') for Maryknoll School, Honolulu (1978-79).
Charlot also employed ceramic for murals: fourteen ceramic tile panels, each 2' x 4', were used in Way of the Cross for St. Sylvester's Church, Kilauea, Kaua'i (1956) and another Way of the Cross, 3' x 2' in ceramic tile, for St. Catherine's Church in Kapa'a, Kaua'i in 1958. Ceramic tile panels were used both indoors and outdoors at St. Francis Hospital to illustrate various religious topics (1959). St. Gabriel, a 3' x 2' ceramic tile panel, was made in 1959 to be placed over the entrance of St. Gabriel's Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Other ceramic tile murals are Night Hula (9' x 15') at the Tradewind Apartments, Honolulu, in 1961, and seven exterior panels (four 11' x 13' and three 8' x 13'), depicting workers on the job and various union activities on the School Street façade of the United Public Workers Building, Honolulu (1970-75).
A mosaic mural, Pietá (6 1/4' x 10 3/4'), for the Parish Center of St. John the Evangelist Church, Morristown, New York, was unveiled in 1962. Way of the Cross, a Styrofoam reverse sculpture consisting of fourteen panels, each 20' x 16', was cast in situ with the cement wall of the Church of St. John Apostle and Evangelist, Mililani, O'ahu, in 1971. Episodes from the Life of Christ, thirty-two copper repoussé panels, each 18" x 19", were executed in collaboration with Evelyn Giddings for the doors of Thurston Chapel, Punahou School, in 1967-75.
Charlot employed yet another medium, acrylic on Masonite, for a series of nine panels, Mayan Warriors, for the 1970 Flora Pacifica Exhibition in Honolulu. A mural in acrylic on Masonite, Musicians of Old Hawaiʻi (two panels, 16' x 8'), was painted for the Harbor Square Apartments in Honolulu in 1971.
Charlot's greatest legacy may be his murals in fresco. Among these are:
Hopi Snake Dance and Preparing Anti-Venom Serum (25' x 25'), Administration Building, Arizona State University, Tempe (1951); Fresco Class in Action (11' x 25'), and Mestrovic's Studio (9' x 25') in the Student Lounge, O'Shaughnessy Building, University of Notre Dame (1955 and 1956). Also, at St. Mary's College [sic: Saint Mary's College], Notre Dame, Charlot executed fourteen panels symbolizing the Fine Arts (each 3' x 3') for O'Laughlin Auditorium (1955) and The Fire of Creation (5' x 6') in Moreau Hall (1956). Psalm of the Good Shepherd (c. 16' x 24'), was painted for the Church of the Good Shepherd, Lincoln Park, Michigan (1955); Inspiration of the Artist (14' x 16'), for the Des Moines, Iowa, Art Center (1956) and Calvary (34' x 32') for St. Leonard Center, Centerville, Ohio (1958). Fresco murals for St. Benedict's Abbey, Atchison, Kansas (1959), are: Trinity and Episodes of Benedictine Life (21' x 29'), Monastic Chapel; St. Joseph's Workshop (4 1/2' x 6 1/2'), Brother's Chapel; and Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Four Apparitions (9 3/4' x 12') for the Abbey Crypt. Also in 1959 Christ as the Vine, with Saints (11' x 15') was painted for the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, Rock Hill, South Carolina. Village Fiesta (9' x 45'), for the Shaw Dormitory at Syracuse University was accompanied by a related film (1960). On the ceiling and apsidal wall of the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows, Farmington, Michigan, Charlot painted the frescoes Our Lady of Sorrows and The Ascension of Our Lord (c. 1300 sq. ft.) in 1961. In 1963 Charlot made a trip to Fiji and painted Black Christ and Worshipers (10' x 30') over the main altar of St. Francis Xavier Church at Naiserelagi, and the side panels St. Joseph's Workshop and The Annunciation (each 10' x 12').
Residents of Hawaiʻi enjoy viewing many of Charlot's fresco murals in locations throughout the State. Early Contacts of Hawaiʻi with the Outer World (11' x 67') was painted in 1951-52 at the Waikiki branch of Bishop Bank. (This later became First National and then First Hawaiian Bank.) In 1966, when the building was destroyed, this mural was divided into smaller panels. Charlot executed Commencement (10' x 36'), on the second floor of Bachman Hall, University of Hawaiʻi (1953); Chief's Canoe (8' x 20'), Catamaran Cafe, Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel, Honolulu (painted in 1956; since removed from the wall); Compassionate Christ (10' x 7'), St. Catherine's Church, Kapa'a, Kaua'i (1958); Inspiration, Study, Creation (15' x16'), Jefferson Hall, East-West Center, Honolulu (1967); Battle of the Malinches (4' x 8'), Maryknoll Elementary School, Honolulu (1967); Angels in Adoration (10' x 19'), Grace Episcopal Church, Ho'olehua, Moloka'i (1967). In 1974, Charlot painted the fresco mural The Relation of Man and Nature in Old Hawaiʻi (23' x 104') at Leeward Community College, O'ahu and, in 1978 another fresco for Maryknoll Elementary School, Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the Well (5' x 4').
Charlot retired from the University of Hawaiʻi as Senior Professor Emeritus in 1966. Two years later, he traveled to France for the first time since 1921 and, at Malzéville and Paris, created a series of lithographs. In 1968 the Jean Charlot Foundation was established in Honolulu to collect source materials relating to the life, work, art, philosophy, and values of Jean Charlot and promote publication of Charlot material. The Foundation, which also had as its stated purpose the "development of interest in the arts, encouragement of artists, and study of art," has sponsored art exhibitions and other art events, and presented various scholarships and prizes for excellence in art to Hawaiʻi artists.
Among the honors bestowed on Charlot was the election by the Royal Society of Art, London, as a Benjamin Franklin Fellow in 1972. In 1976, the Hawaiʻi State Legislature presented Charlot with the Order of Distinction for Cultural Leadership. In June of that year, Charlot was among a distinguished group of persons recognized by the Living Treasure Committee, sponsored by the Living Treasure Committee, sponsored by Honpa Hongwanji Mission, for "contributions to Hawaiʻi's culture and the preservation of Hawaiiana." Charlot, known as "Palani" among his Hawaiian friends, was named a "Living Treasure" for his paintings and murals showing Hawaiʻi's culture.
In 1974, Charlot was diagnosed as having cancer of the prostate. Radiation treatments and chemotherapy would keep the disease under control for the next four years. Confined to a wheelchair during the last months of his life, Charlot nonetheless remained active as an artist and a scholar until his death on March 20, 1979. His last article on Posada ("José Guadalupe Posada and His Successors," in the catalogue Posada's Mexico, edited by Ron Tyler for the Library of Congress and Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, 1979) was published posthumously; the catalogue and exhibition were dedicated to Charlot's memory.
Jean Charlot—distinguished artist, teacher, art historian, author, philospher—was eulogized by the Hawaiʻi State Legislature in House Concurrent Resolution 153 which "enshrines the memory of Jean Charlot in the hearts and minds of the people of Hawaiʻi."
Charlot, Jean. "Jean Charlot". In Born Catholics, edited by F. J. Sheed, 96–113. New York: Sheed and Ward, 1954.
——. The Mexican Mural Renaissance 1920–1925. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1963; second printing 1967.
——. An Artist on Art: Collected Essays. 2 vols. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi, 1972.
Morse, Peter. Jean Charlot's Prints: A Catalogue Raisonné. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi and the Jean Charlot Foundation, 1976.
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In true fresco, pigments suspended in water are applied to fresh, wet plaster. (In the Preparatoria, Charlot used a mix of lime, sand and cement.) In the drying process, the colors amalgamate with the plaster; the painting literally becomes part of the wall or panel. True, or buon fresco, is a much more permanent technique than fresco secco, a method of painting on dry plaster with pigments mixed in a binding medium, which can result in flaking.^reference
Contact, copyright, credit
Jean Charlot & The Jean Charlot Foundation