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Jules Tavernier (1844-1889)
Biography from AskART:
A highly acclaimed landscape painter of western United States and Hawaii, and also a painter of Indian subjects, he was born in Paris, and received his art training there beginning at age 16 from Felix Barrias at the Ecole Des Beaux Arts. When he was twenty, he first exhibited at the Paris Salon and also painted at Barbizon, where he adopted the method of painting with a loaded brush and subjects of intimate, rural scenes.
He served as a soldier and war correspondent-artist during the Franco-Prussian War, and his drawings of a besieged Paris were flown by balloon to London, where they were carried by the newspapers. In 1871, he worked as an illustrator for the "London Graphic."
In 1872, he came to New York City as employee of "Harper's Weekly," and his large, dramatic painting of Niagara Falls was on the cover of "Aldine" magazine, and some viewers said this work alone was enough to make him one of America's greatest artists.
He and artist Paul Frenzeny, a friend from Paris student days, traveled the western United States together, sketching scenes as part of an illustration assignment for "Harper's Weekly" magazine. They crossed the Mississippi at Hannibal, Missouri; rode the train to Denison, Texas, and headed north, eventually getting to the Red Cloud agency in northwest Nebraska in 1874. Their sketches of ritual self-torture of the Sioux Indians were some of the earliest depictions of that subject.
They arrived in San Francisco in the summer of 1875 and there became active in the San Francisco Art Association and the Bohemian Club, a group of poverty stricken, fun loving writers, artists, actors and musician.
In 1875 in Monterey, then a very quiet town, he built a studio on Alvarado Street that became a gathering place for artists who lounged on animal skins and Oriental rugs, smoked pipes, drank alcohol and discussed art-related topics. This colony of "bohemian" types included Frenzeny, but he and Tavernier had a terrible quarrel that ended their friendship.
Tavernier was a much recognized artist, bringing top dollars for his work and amazingly was highly productive in the midst of all of the socializing at his studio. Once a week, painting supplies arrived by steamer from San Francisco, and he sent back completed canvases, most of them of Monterey subjects but some of Indian scenes from his earlier travels through the West.
Although his paintings were controversial because they had strange lighting effects and distortion of form, many local people thought his paintings good advertising for the community until ones appeared that showed a desolate, dull town. These unflattering depictions combined with his extravagant lifestyle and indebtedness led to quarrels with local people, and in 1879, he returned to San Francisco where he shared a studio with Julian Rix and Joseph Strong, habitues of Tavernier's Monterey studio. He married a woman who tried to modify his life style and, with the help of Giuseppe Gariboldi, he got mural commissions including major pieces for the Hopkins House.
In 1884, he went to Hawaii to paint the volcanoes, which he depicted in oil and pastel in over one-hundred works. He also became court painter to the King of Hawaii, but again led a highly profligate lifestyle and, literally drinking himself to death, died at age 45, unable to pay the debts required of anyone wishing to leave the islands. He was buried in Honolulu with a grave marked by a granite stone sent by his friends from San Francisco.
His work is in many collections including the De Young Museum; Volcano National Park in Hawaii; and the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley.
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