Jean Charlot (1898–1979) and his family arrived in Honolulu in June 1949 at the invitation of the University of Hawaiʻi-Mānoa to create a fresco in the administration building, Bachman Hall. After living and working in many places, the move to Hawaiʻi would be the last, as the Charlots stayed, and he became one of Hawaiʻi's most respected and beloved artists over the next three decades.
Within weeks of arriving, Charlot was at the Bishop Museum studying Hawaiiana in preparation for the Bachman Hall mural. The collection of Hawaiian pahu or drums particularly attracted the artist's attention, and he filled a sketchbook with drawings of the various drums, studies which he would refer to again and again for future works.
Hawaiian drummers appear in the finished mural, Relation of Man and Nature in Old Hawaiʻi, created on a 10-by-29-foot wall over a five-week period in fall 1949. The first of many images of Hawaiian drummers alone was a color lithograph he began in March 1950. In May 1950 he executed a fresco of four drummers for the house of artist John Young (private collection, Honolulu), and at the same time he worked on a color lithograph titled War Drum as the annual gift print for the Honolulu Printmakers.
The subject of the Hawaiian drummer became one of Charlot's favorite Hawaiian subjects, interpreted in dozens of variations in all media—frescoes and tile murals, paintings, drawings, and prints—over the rest of his career. His last Hawaiian drummer image was the painting Hala Grove, Kahuwai, Puna, Hawaii with Drummer, completed in 1978. This exhibition presents for first time an overview of Charlot's Hawaiian drummer works drawn from local public and private collections.
Jean Charlot: Hawaiian Drummers.
Honolulu Museum of Art, September 27–November 24, 2013.