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Paul Jacoulet (1902-1960) was an odd personality torn between Japanese and French art traditions and cultures. Jacoulet himself regarded himself as the greatest genius among contemporary Japanese woodblock printmakers and strived for immortality in art history.
First Publication: December 2009
Latest Update: April 2013
Paul Jacoulet was born in 1902 in Paris. As a young boy he came to Tokyo when his father took a teaching position by the Japanese government. Paul assimilated himself into the Japanese and French culture alike. He was fluent in Japanese, French and English.
Jacoulet was attracted by the arts from a young age. In 1934 he had his first woodblock print produced. Different from today's moku hanga artists or the artists of the sosaku hanga movement, he did not carve or print himself. He hired the best carvers and printers for this job. Jacoulet made drawings and watercolors that were transformed into woodblock prints by carvers and printers - highly skilled professionals who needed many years in apprencticeship and training to acquire such mastership.
This was completely in line with the old tradition of ukiyo-e. The shin hanga art movement centered around the Tokyo print publisher Watanabe. And another artist and publisher group in Kyoto worked by the same philosophy and in a similar style.
At the occasion of a Paul Jacoulet exhibition from February 26 until May 19, 2013, the Musé du Petit Palais in Paris created and published this video about Paul Jacoulet. Thanks for sharing this with us.
The woodblock prints of Jacoulet are so much different from any other style or art movement of the years from 1930 to 1960. The artist lived in his own world and created his own art.
Jacoulet did not cooperate with print publishers. Nor are any major contacts with other woodblock artists documented. Paul Jacoulet was an eccentric genius who set himself the highest standards. But from what is known he was also he bragger.
As a consequence of his dislike for art dealers or print publishers Jacoulet had to spend a lot of his time to sell his art. He tried a kind of subscription scheme. And to encourage subscriptions he claimed such well known celebrities like Queen Elizabeth of England, US General McArthur, Greta Garbo or Pope Pius XII to be collectors of his woodblock prints. But reasonable guesses are that Jacoulet had just sent his prints un-requested to at least some of these names to boost sales and his own ego.
Some of today's artists try a similar "trick" by sending their art works unrequested to famous museums and add a "collected by ....." to their résumé.
Jacoulet had made a bad experience in 1934 with an art dealer then calling himself Junji Kato (according to Richard Miles - see bibliography below). From then on he published all his works by himself.
Just as he was unable to integrate himself into the existing structures of the art market, Jacoulet was at odds with all leading Japanese artists of the two art movements in woodblock printmaking, i.e the shin hanga movement and the sosaku hange art.
Maybe with some envy because of their success in the market he spoke out against the kind of pleasing woodblock prints in shin hanga style as simply catering for market tastes.
Jacoulet did not have a better opinion of sosaku hanga artists either. The sosaku hanga philosophy required that the artist made all steps of creating a woodblock print himself - the design, the carving and the printing. Jacoulet regarded this a waste of time and resources as skillful carvers and printers in the old ukiyo-e tradition were available.
When Jacoulet died in 1960 he left 166 designs that had been transformed into woodblock prints during his lifetime with an estimated number of some 30,000 impressions (all numbers taken from Richard Miles). In addition the artist had made several hundred watercolors, the whereabouts of many are unknown.
Less experienced collectors are sometimes puzzled about small-sized Jacoulet prints. These are authentic prints by the artist. He made them usually after designs of his regular, larger woodblocks, and gave them away as for instance Christmas presents. These small-sized prints are today called the surimono prints of Jacoulet. In contrast to the larger "brothers" they are not numbered nor signed by hand.
Jacoulet prints are signed in pencil, sealed and numbered on verso. The artist used a variety of funny looking seals that are documented in the catalog raisonn� of Richard Miles.
A few years ago we encountered unnumbered and unsigned woodblock prints by Jacoulet. This was a surprise and we cannot give a reliable explanation. The source of these prints may be printers' hoards. But this is just a guess.
We have never heard about fakes of Jacoulet prints. It does not sound plausible either. The costs of producing Jacoulet fakes would be higher than the price that can be achieved in the market.
Under commercial aspects the sales of Jacoulet's prints have been a series of ups and downs during the artist's lifetime as well as after his death. In the years following his death it was rather trendy to decorate one's office or private home with Jacoulet prints.
Due to framing and the exposure to light or over-heated rooms these prints are usually in a condition that make them uninteresting for collectors. Thus they are pretty cheap or even worthless (We once had received an un-requested consignment with a formerly expensive Jacoulet print of which the paper was so brittle that the print actually had fallen apart into pieces during transport.).
Jacoulet prints are the product of a technically superb process of printmaking. If you like the style and subjects they are a rewarding purchase. Novices as well as experienced collectors are advised to pay attention to condition. Condition is one of the major factors that defines value.
As a rule of thumb we advise to go for excellent condition if you want to collect them. If you want to decorate your walls, go for a cheap print with condition problems. Most condition problems will hardly be visible once the print is framed.
69 sold object(s) by Paul Jacoulet 1902-1960 in our Art Archive
3 signature(s) by Paul Jacoulet in our Signature Database
Author: Dieter Wanczura
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