Jules Tavernier’s first Hawaii volcano paintings?


Buring Lake of Kilauea

Jules Tavernier painted Burning Lake of Kilauea in November 1884. He was commissioned by Mr. Edward Macfarlane of The Wasp magazine and Pacific Commercial Advertiser to compose two oil paintings of the Kilauea volcano.i Tavernier had yet to travel to Hawai’i (Sandwich Islands) and see the volcanoes firsthand. The two volcano paintings are inspired by photos and his imagination, as many of his significant works were.

Chromolithographic created

The Burning Lake of Kilauea painting was turned into a 14-color chromolithographic Figure 1. supplement for the 1884 Christmas issue of The Wasp publication.ii

Burning Lake of Kilauea by Jules Tavernier 1884
Figure 1. Based on the painting by Jules Tavernier, and supplement to the 1884 Christmas issue of The WASP. Schmidt Label & Litho. Co. One surviving original print is in the Barry Lawrence Ruderman Map Collection at Stanford University Libraries. Image Copyright © Stanford University.

In the early 1880s, influenced by illustrations in Harper’s Weekly and William Alexander Coulter, Tavernier began to create volcano studies. The San Francisco Chronicle had the following to say about the Macfarlane commissions.

“…very effective illustrations of the chaotic and terror inspiring state of things witnessed by the Hawaiians in 1880, and are said by visitors to the Islands at that time to be very truthful in drawing and coloring. The painting might seem strange to one who knows that Jules was never a sojourner at the home of the Kanakas; but there is really nothing wonderful about it, when we reflect on the fact that some of his most successful pictures are those of landscapes upon which he has never set eye.” iii

Those studies are what generated Tavernier’s pull to Hawaii. Tavernier would not lay his own eyes on a Hawaii volcano until January 6th, 1885, when he and Joseph D. Strong would make their first sketching trip.iv

Surviving examples

There are currently three surviving examples of Buring Lake of Kilauea. The chromolithograph in figure 1., and two oil paintings.

The first painting is a large 36×22 inch oil on canvas still with its original 19th-century Victorian gold leaf frame from the Michael Horikawa Fine Art collection. Figure 2

Burning Lake of Kilauea by Jules Tavernier
Figure 2. Burning Lake of Kilauea 1884 oil on canvas. Provenance Michael Horikawa Fine Art. Image Copyright © DerSeul, LLC

The second is a smaller picture reportedly from the late Harry Miura collection.v Figure 3.

Figure 3. From the late Harry Miura collection. Oil on canvas laid on board. 15 x 9 5/8 inches. Sold in 2013 by Mauna Kea Galleries

Attributing Burning Lake of Kilauea

Recalling that Macfarlane commissioned two volcano paintings, we can speculate attribution to the two examples above.

Given that only two oil paintings of the chromolithographic scene have emerged in over one-hundred and twenty-five years gives strength to the attribution. Moreover, both paintings are similar enough to be precursors worthy of mass duplication in The Wasp.

  • [i] The Pacific Commercial Advertiser – 11 Nov 1884, Page 2
  • [ii] The Pacific Commercial Advertiser – 30 Dec 1884, Page 2
  • [iii] California Art Research Volume Four, WPA Project 2874, January 1937, Page 20
  • [iv] The Honolulu Advertiser (Honolulu, Hawaii) – Jan 6, 1885, Page 3
  • [v] WorthPoint.com Auction History “Important Hawaii Kilauea Volcano Oil on Jules Tavernier Canvas” Oct 06, 2013


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