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The Artist Paul Jacoulet in Micronesia

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By Don Rubinstein Professor of Anthropology and Public Health University of Guam rubinste@uguam.uog.edu

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Abstract: The Pacific has always held a special attraction for outside artists, travelers, and writers. Since the seminal work of art historian Bernard Smith (1960), we can appreciate how outside artists project their own complex vision of culture, nature, shared humanity, and ideals of beauty upon a Pacific canvas. This presentation focuses on one uniquely gifted and prolific artist, the Frenchman Paul Jacoulet, and his vision of Micronesia. Jacoulet first visited the Mariana Islands in 1929 and made several subsequent trips, in addition to spending time in other Micronesian ports of call, from Palau to Jaluit. He was predominantly a portraitist, and his several thousand pencil sketches, water color paintings, and published wood block prints provide a unique artistic vision of the Chamorros and Carolinians of the Mariana Islands whom Jacoulet befriended, as well as other islanders throughout the Japanese mandated territory during the prewar era. The Pacific has always held a special attraction for outside artists, travelers, and writers. Since the seminal work1 of art historian Bernard Smith, first published over 60 years ago, we can appreciate how outside artists project their own complex vision of culture, nature, shared humanity, and ideals of beauty upon a Pacific canvas. In this presentation I will focus on one uniquely gifted and prolific artist, the Frenchman Paul Jacoulet, and his vision of Micronesia (Fig. 1).

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Of all the outside artists who have visited Micronesia and portrayed the people and islands in their artwork, Jacoulet certainly produced the largest oeuvre and achieved the widest renown (Fig. 2). Jacoulet was wont to say, in his characteristically immodest way, “There are three Pauls: Paul Gauguin, Paul Cezanne, and Paul Jacoulet”.2 Especially in his “South Seas” voyages and visions, Jacoulet saw himself as an artistic kindred spirit of his admired Gauguin (Fig. 3).

First published in Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, v. XIII, nos.1-2, 1950, p.65-100. Later expanded and published as a monograph, European vision and the South Pacific, 1768-1850; a study in the history of art and ideas (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1960); a 2nd edition of the monograph was reissued in larger illustrated format: European vision and the South Pacific (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1985). ! Personal communication, Thérèse Inagaki, Feb. 2007. 2 2nd Marianas History Conference 2013 ・ !1 ! 1

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