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  • Paul Jacoulet’s Vision of Micronesia
  • Judy Flores
Paul Jacoulet’s Vision of Micronesia, by Donald Rubinstein, 2007. ISBN 978-0-9800331-0-6, 40 pages including cover, text, notes, drawings, fullcolor watercolors, prints, and bibliography. US $30.00.

Paul Jacoulet’s Vision of Micronesia. Exhibition, Isla Center for the Arts at the University of Guam, 11 October–24 November 2007.

This exhibit pulled together 220 images of Paul Jacoulet’s original drawings, watercolors, and wood-block prints of Micronesian subjects, and the artist’s notes, which were shared by his adopted daughter, Mrs Thérèse Inagaki, with researcher and curator Donald Rubinstein.

Isla Gallery comprises three rooms, which provided a display space for each of the three major geographic areas of the artist’s work in Micronesia. The Mariana Islands grouping contained sixteen wood-block prints; fifteen were featured for Yap and the Outer Islands; and prints from Palau, Pohnpei, Kosrae, and the Marshall Islands made up the third group, which also included four additional prints depicting general themes of the tropics and the South Seas. The colorful, thumbnail-size images provided an enticing coda to the catalog, and invited readers to view the actual wood-block prints in the exhibit. Within each grouping, original wood-block prints were featured together with photographic reproductions of watercolors, pencil sketches, and line drawings of the subject. Text panels described the techniques and steps used by the artist to manipulate the [End Page 513] original image toward its ultimate rendition as a wood-block print.

Prominently featured in the Mariana Islands grouping was Jacoulet’s first publication in 1934, the “Rainbow Series,” depicting seven prominent Chamorro women, each adorned in clothing primarily of one color of the rainbow. Each exquisite rendering is accompanied by a text panel providing ethnographic information about the woman’s adornment, what the woman is holding, and background details that relate symbolically to the subjects.

In the Rainbow Series as well as in many of the portraits elsewhere in the exhibit, Jacoulet noted the names of his subjects, adding historical interest for the Guam viewing audience, especially for the descendants of Jacoulet’s named subjects. An undated photograph of Simion Ogarto, who is identified among a group of other men, shows an unmistakable resemblance to Jacoulet’s portrait of the man titled “S. Ogarto, father of Kikou.”

The text panels in the exhibit provide additional information to the viewer and complement the discussions of the subjects and themes in the catalog (the art used on the catalog’s cover is shown in figure 1). The catalog notes that the first Guam exhibition of Paul Jacoulet’s wood-block prints opened at the Guam Art Center in Agaña in 1947. A retrospective of Jacoulet’s prints was exhibited at the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, California in 1982. The Yokohama Museum of Art held the largest Jacoulet exposition in Japan in 2003, followed in 2006 by an exhibit at the National Museum of Korea. These exhibits and their accompanying catalogs comprise the primary literature available on the artist. The Isla Center exhibit and accompanying catalog adds significantly to our understanding of the art of Paul Jacoulet and his vision of Micronesia.

The exhibition catalog presents an overview of Paul Jacoulet’s life from his birth in France in 1896, his upbringing in Tokyo, the difficulties he experienced during the World War II years, and his postwar recovery and final years. The biography traces his artistic development and the significant influences on his artistic style and choice of subject matter, which was particularly influenced by his travels through Micronesia beginning in 1929. Author Donald Rubinstein presents new material about Jacoulet’s life based on documents shared by the artist’s adopted daughter.

The catalog focuses on Jacoulet’s travels in Micronesia and the subsequent renditions of Micronesia that he continued to produce throughout his life. His progression from watercolor paintings and pencil sketches to wood-block prints is illustrated through images produced by the artist, often done decades apart. Several pages depict his initial, on-site, detailed watercolor rendering of Islanders in traditional dress and ornamentation of the period, juxtaposed with a refined but equally detailed...