Marshall Islands Art
Paul Jacoulet (1896-1960)
Biographical Sketch

Jacoulet was born in Paris in 1896. From 1899 he was raised and educated in Tokyo. Jacoulet's art blends techniques and design elements derived from traditional ukiyo-e printmaking with a unique European approaches that distiguishes his work from Japanese printers at the time. One of the few Europeans to master the style of Japanese woodcuts, Jacoulet was a gifted draughtsman with an impressive quality of line. He was also a superb colorist, exerting direct control over the printing of his designs.

Self-Portrait (1942)
Jacoulet's prints, with many reaching technical levels unmatched in twentieth century printmaking, were carved and printed by some of Japan's finest master craftsmen, and Jacoulet included their marks in cartouches on the margins of his prints, thus acknowledging their creative role in the printmaking process. One of his highly skilled engravers, Kentaro Maeda, said in 1987 (then ninety years old) that to carve Jacoulet's line was difficult, especially for the faces.

All but 3 of Jacoulet's 166 prints were figure portraits. He selected unusual subjects from the South Sea Islands (Marianas, Carolines, Celebes, Fiji, Yap, Marshall Islands), Korea, Manchuria, and Japan (Hokkaidô, Izu, Kobe, Sawara). Many of his figures were positioned in the traditional three-quarters profile of ukiyo-e convention, but others faced the viewer directly, a confrontational approach that could be disconcerting. He portrayed not only the beautiful but also the infirm and elderly. The common people from fast-disappearing cultures were of special interest to Jacoulet. The artist and woodblock engraver Kazuo Yamagishi (who engraved Jacoulet's rare and most sought-after print, 'Une Parisienne', in 1934) said that Jacoulet's style was so expressive that the character of the Japanese peasants in his portraits could be understood in a single glance.

Jacoulet sold his prints by subscription, thus ensuring a regular supply of income.

Jacoulet numbered his editions in an eccentric manner, often not completing one or more editions and starting the next with numbers not used up in the first, so it is quite difficult to be certain just how many impressions were made of a given design.

He also used decorative artist seals. The "boat" seal for example, was used only from 1939-40, accompanied by the elegant signature he used on his prints. The "duck" seal was used 1935.
Jacoulet's Signature (1935)


Miles, Richard (1982) The Prints of Paul Jacoulet. Pasadena: Pacific Asia Museum,
Miles, Richard (1989) Watercolors of Paul Jacoulet. Pasadena: Pacific Asia Museum, 1989.

[Literature and Art]

Dirk H.R. Spennemann, Institute of Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, P.O.Box 789, Albury NSW 2640, Australia.

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