Image Copyright: Cindy Ellen Russell /

I am concurrently completing a graduate certificate in Historic Preservation at the University of Hawai’i (with a MLISc) and for the Spring 2015 semester I will be completing my last course for the certificate which will be my internship/practicum (AMST 695).

For this internship, I will be working directly under the University of Hawai’i, School of Architecture Chair, Dr. Spencer Leineweber. On Tuesday, January 20, 2015 I met with Dr. Leineweber and discussed the scope of the project, my duties and the current inventory of items at the historic home of Jean Charlot.

Who Was Jean Charlot? [1]

Jean Charlot (1898 – 1979) was an artist and scholar was born in France and spent most of his childhood there until moving to his mother’s homeland of Mexico during the 1920s.

Zohma and Jean Charlot. by Edward Weston (1886-1958).

Zohma and Jean Charlot. by Edward Weston (1886-1958).

Both countries and their history, his heritage and Catholic beliefs greatly influenced his art. Although he exhibited his art while in France he felt somewhat constrained by the nationalistic ideals whereas in Mexico, he shared a flat with Fernando Leal and worked alongside some of the most famous Mexican artists and revolutionaries of the period such as Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros and Guerrero.

Charlot created using a myriad of mediums such as paintings, sketches, wood carvings, ceramic sculptures, metal sculpture and more. However, he is most well known for his frescos, cartoon work and paintings inspired by ancient Mesoamerican cultures studied while working as a staff artist for the Carnegie Institution expedition at Chichén Itzá, Yucatán” during the late 1920’s.

Relation of Man and Nature in Old Hawai'i, Charlot, 1949.

Relation of Man and Nature in Old Hawai’i, Charlot, 1949.

Charlot continued to travel and work throughout the world but in 1949 he was commission by the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa to create a fresco. While here, he painted the fresco mural entitled, Relation of Man and Nature in Old Hawai’i on the first floor Bachman Hall.

Jean and Zomah loved their time in Hawai‘i so much that he accepted a professorship at the University of Hawai‘i, purchased property in Kahala and there they built their home, a work of art within and of itself, filled with ethnographic artwork, artisan woodworking, and paintings by famous artists from all over the world. Each element representing who he was and his journey.

Charlot continued to create and live in this home until his death in 1979.

Jean Charlot House Overview [2]

Description by the Historic Hawai’i Foundation

TMK: (1) 3-5-008:029
SHPD Historic Site Number: 80-14-9790
National Register of Historic Places: #00001371
Nomination Form

“This location is a split-level, ranch-style house completed in 1958 in the Kahala residential neighborhood of Honolulu, which features many homes in this style. It is significant for its architecture and for its association with the world-renowned Hawai‘i artist, Jean Charlot. The split-level ranch house is one-story on the southern side and two stories on the northern side.

It features a low-pitched, gable roof continually sloping down from the two-story side of the house, which creates an asymmetric front facade and four vastly different elevations. Collaboration by Charlot and architect George James “Pete” Wimberly in 1957 created a house that possesses a uniquely artistic flair and combines the openness and use of lanais in island homes with the vertical emphasis of traditional French Rural architecture and the brick floors and back courtyards of Mexican houses. Landscape architect James Hubbard worked with Charlot in designing the gardens.

The house has an L-shaped plan, and the cup of the L features a garden planted by Charlot that most notably uses Pandanus Trees from the University of Hawai‘i campus as well as some of his favorite plants, including Shower Trees and Jade Vines. Garden sculpture and decorative stones designed by Charlot, as well as pieces from his collection that are suitable for the outdoors, can be found throughout the home and landscaping.

This list of Hawaii’s historic properties is provided as a public service by Historic Hawaii Foundation. It is not the official list of properties designated on the Hawaii State Register of Historic Places. For official designations and determinations of eligibility, contact the State Historic Preservation Division of the Department of Land and Natural Resources of the State of Hawaii at 808-692-8015.”

Internship Overview and Goals

The home is currently not interpreted and the only piece of art in the home at this point in time is the fresco in the drawing room, Diamond Head side of the home. The reasons for this are four-fold:

  1. The location is not secure and some items have already been stolen off the property.
  2. Jean Charlot’s children inherited the majority of the pieces and have them in their possession, have been donated or sold.
  3. The home is used by visiting scholars; and
  4. The School of Architecture did not have this project high on their priority list until recently.

My main tasks will be to utilize the Jean Charlot Collection housed at the University of Hawai‘i, Hamilton Library where I will meticulously look through the archive of images showing the property, landscape, interior furnishings and decorations so for the purpose of interpreting the home back to its period of significance. If possible, furniture will be placed in places where they were originally used, objects, ethnographic art, books and recreated paintings and other artwork will be displayed in locations where they were originally placed. This would allow the School of Architecture to utilize the home as a historic museum house for monthly interpretive tours (either UH or public), symposiums, and as a teaching tool for ARCH classes.

The Jean Charlot Collection is a major archive of documents and art works relating to the artist and writer Jean Charlot and to those whom he came in contact over his long career in France, Mexico, the United States and the Pacific. It contains materials from every stage of Charlot’s life and from every area of his activity including art works by Charlot and other artists, personal documents and correspondence, published and unpublished writings and Charlot’s personal library collection of over 1,500 items [3].

I am conducting these searches carefully studying the family albums, scrapbooks, house guest books, architectural plans, portraits, inventories and insurance appraisals. This includes looking at materials such as photographs, slides, journals, scrapbooks, guest logs, inventories, professionally published works and more.

I am creating a spreadsheet wherein I am cataloging the objects found throughout the house and all related metadata such as what year the photograph was taken, by whom, the general type of object such as painting or furniture, the title of the object or description as taken from the archive, the source of where I found the information in the Jean Charlot Collection and further notes as to where the object was moved in the home following subsequent years. Because there are so many objects, I created a unique identifier protocol for all items being listed.

The code is created using a combination of Room, facing wall, and a 5 digit object code. For example, an object found in an early photograph from 1959, pictured in the drawing room on the north facing wall would be assigned number DRN00001 while an object found in later images, in the kitchen on the East Facing Wall may be assigned KE00089. The last five numerical digits assigned are simply numerical order of which the object was found and placed on the inventory.

Listing of Rooms
DR Dining Room
K Kitchen
B Bathroom
D Drawing Room
E Entryway (front door)
L Lanai
LR Laundry Room
BY Back yard
FY Front yard
S Studio


I am really excited about continuing this project as much as I can until I graduate in May 2015 and it has allowed me to combine my love and interest for historic architecture, museum houses and archives. I completed my Bachelors degree in Anthropology with a focus in ancient Mesoamerican cultures and after graduation, I traveled to Mexico so that I could see the temples and cultures that I had grown passionate about; so this collection is close to my heart. I am grateful for the opportunity to work on this and to learn under Dr. Leineweber’s tutelage and hope to be an asset toward the goal of interpreting the home for future use.

Toward the end of the semester I will be required to complete a term report detailing my experience and will be presenting on the topic to an audience of my professors and peers.

Final Practicum Report Download the final report

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1. Thompson, Karen. “Jean CharlotArtist and Scholar.” Jean Charlot Collection -Artist & Scholar: University of Hawai’i at Manoa Library. Accessed February 28, 2015.

2. “4956 Kahala Avenue/ Jean Charlot Residence.” Historic Hawaii Foundation. February 28, 2014. Accessed February 28, 2015.

3. “The Jean Charlot Collection.” Jean Charlot Collection : University of Hawai’i at Manoa Library. Accessed February 28, 2015.

Additional Resource: The Jean Charlot Foundation