Vue de l'exposition
26 Feb 2013 19 May 2013

A travelling artist in Micronesia

The floating universe of Paul Jacoulet

The French artist, Paul Jacoulet (1896-1960) arrived in Japan in 1899, where he spent the best part of his life. He travelled to Korea, China and Micronesia which he visited numerous times to paint portraits of the inhabitants. Through his engravings and drawings, he represented men and women he had met using a style that is simultaneously intimate, aesthetic and ethnographic.

About the exhibition

Several major themes allow the visitor to travel through his extensive and unique œuvre: the artist-ethnographer's intimate vision of an "elsewhere" which had become his daily reality, the representation of tattooing, adornment and of certain rituals and the erotic component of certain portraits.

The exhibition brings together more than 160 exceptional drawings, sketches and engravings from the donation made to the musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac in 2011 by Madame Thérèse Jacoulet-Inagaki, the adopted daughter of Paul Jacoulet, as well as the three other heirs and donors - Chisei Ra, Louis Young Whan Rah and Shozo Tomita. A collection of wood used in the preparation of engravings, objects from the musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac and from the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, together with audio-visual programmes, complete this presentation.

  • Curator

    • Christian Polak, doctor in law, specialist in the history of Franco-Japanese relations, specialist in the work of Paul Jacoulet
    • with the collaboration of Julien Rousseau, responsible for the Asia collections, at the musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac

    Scientific advisors

    • Kiyoko Sawatari, Senior researcher at the Yokohama Museum of Art, Japan, specialist in the work of  Paul Jacoulet
    • Sébastien Galliot, specialist in Micronesian tattoos
  • Place:   Mezzanine est
  • TimeSlots:  
    From Tuesday 26 February 2013 at Sunday 19 May 2013
  • Closed on monday
    Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday:  10:30 am-07:00 pm
  • Public:   All publics
  • Categorie : Exhibitions
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Exhibition synopsis

The travelling artist

The exhibition starts with a selection of Asian wood engravings and watercolors, dedicated to the voyages made by the artist to Korea, China, Mongolia etc. They introduce the visitor to his works outside of Micronesia. Throughout his travels across eastern Asia, and from 1929 onwards in Micronesia, Paul Jacoulet found a ceaselessly renewed inspiration characterised by a humanist view of the diversity of civilisations.

At the heart of the exhibition, an audiovisual programme enables visitors to familiarise themselves with the technique of  ukiyo-e (a Japanese term meaning "image of the floating world"), engravings on wood primarily depicting subjects from daily life in the Edo period (1603-1868). This is the technique that Paul Jacoulet was to use half a century later to create his works. A series of woodblocks is presented in parallel with several stages of the engraving Sorrows of love, Kutaie, Caroline Islands, 1940.

Towards the light of the Micronesian Islands

It was in 1929 that Paul Jacoulet visited the Micronesian islands for the first time. Amazed by the natural environment and the local cultures that he discovered there, the artist regularly travelled through the region until 1932. From each of his voyages he brought back an abundance of watercolors and drawings. With almost monographic powers of observation, this Micronesian series magnifies the diversity of the natural species and societies that he encountered. This section presents the watercolors, engravings and drawings of Paul Jacoulet classified by island, among which are three series of watercolors of butterflies, insects and flowers.

The art of tattooing

Tattooing is widespread in Micronesia, where it indicates the social rank and sex of each individual; it is the symbol of each individual's identity. In his portraits Paul Jacoulet represented the variety and abundance of the signs found on the bodies of men and women. A series of engravings, watercolors, sketches and preparatory drawings on this theme are exhibited.

A selection of Micronesian objects linked to the practice of tattooing examine the rituals of tattooing in Micronesia, their meaning and their survival. An audiovisual programme on the art of tattooing completes this section.

The art of personal ornamentation

The eye of the artist ethnographer is revealed in the numerous representations of traditional personal ornaments – jewellery, headdresses and textiles – employed by the Micronesians. This section presents these works, together with a series of ear ornaments, necklaces etc. whose motifs can be found in the engravings.

The intimate

The penultimate section presents, in an enclosed space, the very beautiful male and female nudes produced in Micronesia by Paul Jacoulet. The aesthetic of the lines and the modelling of the bodies is fully emphasised without any direct allusion to eroticism.

The universe of Paul Jacoulet

The last section is dedicated to the creative universe of Paul Jacoulet: pencils, brushes, travel diary and sketchbook, pigments etc. are all exhibited. The exhibition ends with a piece symbolising the attachment of the artist to Japan: a set of clappers. These everyday objects were used either by firemen to warn inhabitants of the risks of fire or to mark the end of a performance or a sumo tournament.