Jules Tavernier: The Volcano Artist

Beyond the jagged cliffs of Kilauea Volcano, the Halemaumau lava lake’s orange red glow illuminates the night (left image). Above, smoke shrouds the lake, and a full moon peeks behind grayish black clouds.

To paint this picture, in 1887, Jules Tavernier (1844-1889) made a grueling one-to-two day journey on horseback up to Kilauea’s peak.

Although the English French artist spent less than five years in Hawaii, Tavernier painted his way to become the most significant artist in Hawaii’s Volcano School (non-native Hawaiian artists who painted night scenes of Hawaii’s erupting volcanoes). The volatile, expressive, and “peppery” artist became known for his paintings and pastel illustrations of volcanoes.

After his eight-day voyage by ship, Tavernier arrived in Honolulu in 1884:

“Amongst the passengers by the Alameda was Mons. Jules Tavernier, the celebrated French painter, whose works have attracted so much attention in Europe and America. Mons. Tavernier visits these islands for ‘studies,’ and hopes to visit the other islands of the group during his stay.”

Hawaii newspapers praised Tavernier’s works. The Hawaiian Gazette praises Tavernier’s oil painting “House of Everlasting Fire,” which illustrated a volcano:

“Words fail to depict the awe-inspiring grandeur and weirdness which combine to strike the beholder with a conviction of the genius which can so truthfully portray the wondrous lineaments of the ever restless lake of fire, the dark and grim surroundings of the famed abode of that dread goddess whose fretful moods are voiced by loud explosions, fiery tongue and tremblings of the earth.”

A few months later, Tavernier taught painting one day and died the next. The Daily Bulletin and The Hawaiian Gazette ran Tavernier’s obituaries, and government physicians concluded alcoholism caused his death. Tavernier’s remains were buried at the Nuuanu Cemetary, and a year later the Bohemian Club of San Francisco placed a stone memorial above his grave.

The Hawaiian Gazette predicted Tavernier’s legacy:

“There is no doubt that the pictures of the late Jules Tavernier will increase in value, as his works represent a school of art that is not of a common kind; and the subjects are always interesting and valuable in proportion to the genius displayed.”

– Alice Kim

Note: Tavernier’s Volcano School works can now be seen at the Honolulu Museum of Art.

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Articles on Chronicling America

“An Exhibition of Art”
The Hawaiian gazette., March 04, 1885, Image 3

“Jules Tavernier: Sudden Death of the Celebrated Artist and Painter”
The Hawaiian gazette, May 21, 1889, Page 4

“Tavernier Dead!: Jules Tavernier, the Famous Artist, Found Dead in His Room–Some Particulars of His Life”
The Daily bulletin, May 18, 1889, Image 3

“The Travernier Monument: Proceedings of the Bohemian Club in Relation to the Memorial”
The Daily bulletin., December 29, 1890, Image 5

“The Art Renaissance at Monterey: Picture-makers Are Going Back to Their First Love”
The San Francisco call., July 26, 1896, Page 18, Image 18

“Tavernier’s Pictures”
The Hawaiian gazette., June 18, 1889, Page 2, Image 2

“A Famous Painter of Old Hawaii”
The Pacific commercial advertiser., August 04, 1903, Page 2, Image 2


One Comment on “Jules Tavernier: The Volcano Artist”

  1. […] Although the English French artist spent less than five years in Hawaii, Tavernier is considered the most significant artist in Hawaii’s Volcano School … Read more […]

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