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Jules Tavernier

 (1844 - 1889)
Jules Tavernier was active/lived in California, Hawaii, Kansas, New York / France.  Jules Tavernier is known for volcanic landscape and western scene painting.

Jules Tavernier

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Jules Tavernier
Perhaps best remembered for his volcano paintings of Hawaii, Jules Tavernier also painted notable scenes of the West. Born in Paris, Jules Tavernier had a father who was English and a French mother, and Jules claimed British citizenship. As a child he lived in both England and France. As a young man he studied with artist Felix Barrias in Paris, and in 1864 began to exhibit at the Paris Salon.  He also painted in Barbizon, France.

At the start of the Franco-Prussian War, Tavernier volunteered for service.  At the end of the war he took advantage of his British citizenship and moved to London where he worked as an illustrator.  From London he moved to New York where he continued to work in illustration.  In New York, he spent time with artist Paul Frenzeny (1840-1902), who worked at Harper's, as did Tavernier. In 1873 the two got an assignment to travel in the West, sketching scenes for the magazine.

Tavernier and Frenzeny spent time in Missouri, Texas, Colorado, Nebraska, Utah, and various other places before arriving in San Francisco in 1874. Their sketches of the Nebraska Sioux include some of the earliest depictions of particularly sacred rituals.

In 1875 the two artists became members of the Bohemian Club in San Francisco, a group of creative people. Members were newsmen, artists, musicians, actors, and businessmen who shared an interest in the arts and camaraderie.  Tavernier helped found both the Bohemian and Palette Clubs, and was also a vice-president of the San Francisco Art Association.

In 1876, Jules built a studio in Monterey, a quiet coastal town several hours south of San Francisco. Paul Frenzeny moved there too, but the two quarreled and their friendship came to an end.

Tavernier married Lizzie Fulton in 1877. Her father was from New York, and her mother was Austrian.  Their marriage was troubled, as Tavernier's habits of indebtedness and drinking took a toll.

He quarreled and ran up debts with Monterey locals, and in 1879 Tavernier returned to San Francisco where he shared a studio with Julian Rix (1850-1903) and Joseph Strong (1852-1899), with whom he had been friends in Monterey. Another friend from Monterey, Giuseppe Gariboldi, helped Tavernier get some mural commissions, including some for the Hopkins residence in San Francisco.  Hopkins was one of the 'Big Four' railroad magnates who had built the Central Pacific Railroad.

In the early 1880s, Tavernier spent time painting in Yosemite as well as British Colombia. His debts were mounting however, and in 1884, he and Lizzie set sail for the Hawaiian Islands, escaping some of his San Francisco credit problems.

Arriving in Honolulu, he for a time shared studio space with Joseph Strong, having known Joseph and Isobel Strong from San Francisco. Strong and Tavernier went on a sketching trip to 'the Big Island' of Hawaii, and it was there that Tavernier first saw Kilauea, the volcano that was to become his inspiration. But the relationship between Tavernier and Strong was short-lived, due to differences in temperament.

In 1885, Tavernier began doing volcano paintings that received rave reception. He, along with Charles Furneaux (1835-1913) and Joseph Strong (1852-1899) were considered the founders of what became called the 'Volcano School' of painting in Hawaii, and are regarded by many as the 'old masters' of Hawaiian painting. Although he worked less than five years in Hawaii, Tavernier is often referred to as the premier interpreter of the volcano.  Many other artists picked up the theme that he had started. 

Many commissions followed for Tavernier, both for volcano paintings and views of scenic places, as well as portraits.  He worked on the island of Hawaii, painting Kilauea Volcano, as well as the area around the city of Hilo. His images grew increasingly grand, and he even came up with the idea of a gigantic volcano panoramic canvas, which envisioned would travel the country.

This panorama, Tavernier's largest volcano painting, was a canvas of vast proportion, twelve feet high by ninety feet long, and was intended to be experienced as a circular view from a stand in the center.  The panorama opened to the public in Hilo in 1886 and later in Honolulu, but was little exhibited after that.

His debts and drinking continued to cause problems, and he ran up large bills for canvas, paints, and frames, often with King Brothers' art store on Hotel Street in Honolulu.  Discouraged, Lizzie left him in 1887, and returned to San Francisco. Jules was unable to leave Hawaii, as it was required that debts be paid before people set sail from the islands. The Hitchcock family of Hilo befriended him and tried to help him regain his health. In addition to his drinking, he also suffered from asthma. David Howard Hitchcock (1861-1943), considerably younger than Jules, was Tavernier's disciple and principal student and is himself highly regarded for his interpretation of the Hawaiian landscape. The two had met in Hilo on Tavernier's initial trip to the island of Hawaii with Joseph Strong.

For awhile he re-worked some of his Western scenes from his Hilo studio. Other western scenes were found in his Honolulu studio after his death. Volcano paintings are most often associated with his work in Hawaii, but they were only a portion of his output there. His Hawaiian work included landscapes, pictures of waterfalls, still lifes, flowers, scenes of interiors, and portraits as well. Several of his landscapes are in a long horizontal format. Some are reminiscent of the French Barbizon style of painting that had been popular during Tavernier's student days in France.

By 1889, Jules Tavernier had died of alcoholism at his studio on Hotel Street in Honolulu. He was buried at the Oahu Cemetery in Nuuanu Valley.  His friends at the Bohemian Club, on hearing of his death, sent a marker for his grave.

Sources:, based on the book Splendide Californie, Impressions of the Golden State by French Artists by Dr. Claudein Chalmers
David Forbes,  Encounters With Paradise: Views of Hawaii and It's People: 1778-1941.

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Jules Tavernier
Born in Paris, France on April 27, 1844, Jule Tavernier began art studies at age 16 in his native city under Felix Barrias at Ecole des Beaux Arts. By age 20 he had exhibited at the prestigious Paris Salon and received local recognition. After serving as an artist-war correspondent during the Franco-Prussian War, he lived in England for a year. He worked as an illustrator for the London Graphic before sailing for New York in 1872.

With artist Paul Frenzeny, he crossed the U.S. in 1873 as employees of Harper's Weekly. Traveling by horseback, the two Frenchmen made drawings of the western frontier along the way. After arriving in San Francisco in 1875, Tavernier became an active member of the San Francisco Art Ass'n and Bohemian Club.

Following a sketching trip to nearby Monterey, he built a studio there which became a mecca for visiting artists. Soon others joined him and an art colony of "Bohemians" was formed. Although his work brought top prices, he was constantly in debt due to his profligate life style. After an altercation with local citizenry forced his return to San Francisco in 1879, he shared a studio with Julian Rix and Joseph Strong.

Deeply in debt and hounded by creditors, his desire to paint volcanoes in Hawaii led him to the Islands in 1884. His works were popular there and he became court painter to King Kalakaua. He produced about 100 depictions of volcanoes in oil and pastel. Local law insisted upon payment of all bills before leaving the Islands and, unable to do so, he remained there and drank himself to death.

Tavernier died in Honolulu at his studio on Hotel Street at age 45 on May 18, 1889. A granite grave marker was sent to Hawaii by his friends at the Bohemian Club and is easily seen over the cemetery wall.

Member: SFAA; Palette Club; Bohemian Club. Exh: Paris Salon, 1864-70; Philadelphia Centennial, 1876; Mechanics' Inst. Fair (SF), 1877 (medal); Calif. State Fair, 1880-82; New Orleans World's Fair, 1885; Calif. Midwinter Expo, 1894.

Collections: CHS; Oakland Museum; Bancroft Library (UC Berkeley); De Young Museum; Denver Public Library; Honolulu Academy of Arts; Gilcrease Inst.; Harrison Library (Carmel); Kansas State Historical Society; Monterey Peninsula Museum; Wichita Public Library; Yosemite Nat'l Park Museum; Bohemian Club; Olympic Club (SF); Volcano Nat'l Park (Hawaii); Shasta State Historical Monument; Beaverbrook Art Gallery (New Brunswick, Canada); Society of Calif. Pioneers.

Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
California Art Research, 20 volumes; Artists and Illustrators of the Old West (Robert Taft); American Western Art (Harmsen); Artists of the American West (Samuels); History & Ideals of American Art (Neuhaus); Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs, et Graveurs (Bénézit, E); Art in California (R. L. Bernier, 1916); SF Morning Call, 6-11-1889 (obituary).

Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Jules Tavernier
Born Paris, France, 1844; died Honolulu, HI, 1889. Painter, specialty of landscapes and Native American scenes. Illustrator. Student of Felix Barrias in Paris, France.

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. Immigrated to New York in 1872. Commissioned by Harper's Weekly in 1873 to make a series of sketches on an expedition from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Traveled with 212 Paul Frenzeny from New York to San Francisco, CA. Visited Kansas and nine sketches of Kansas were published during 1874.

Traveled to San Francisco, CA in 1875 where he became active in the San Francisco Art Association and the Bohemian Club, a group of poverty stricken, fun loving writers, artists, actors and musicians. Built a studio in Monterey, CA that became a gathering place for artists but returned to San Francisco in 1879.

In 1884 Tavenier went to Hawaii to paint the volcanoes and he died there of alcoholism.

Susan Craig, "Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945)"
PROW (Taft, Robert. “Pictorial Record of the Old West”, in Kansas Historical Quarterly, 1946. p. 1-35; 145-165; 241-264; 361-390.); Samuels, Peggy. Illustrated Biographical Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1976.; Harmsen, Dorothy. American Western Art; a Collection of One Hundred Twenty-Five Western Paintings and Sculpture with Biographies of the Artists. [Denver}: Harmsen Publishing Co., 1977. (illustration of Clearwater, Kansas); Reed, Walt. The Illustrator in America, 1860-2000. New York: Society of Illustrators, 2001.; AskArt,, accessed Dec. 23, 2005; Taft, Lorado. History of American Sculpture. New edition with supplemental chapter by Adeline Adams. New York: Macmillan Co, 1930.; Ewing, Robert Nichols. Jules Tavernier (1844-1889): Painter and Illustrator. (PhD. Dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles, 1978); Kansas Historical Quarterly (Feb. 1946).

This and over 1,750 other biographies can be found in Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945) compiled by Susan V. Craig, Art & Architecture Librarian at University of Kansas.

Biography from Douglas Frazer Fine Art, Ltd.
Considered one of the three originators of the "Volcano School" in Hawaii in the late 19th century, Jules Tavernier was born in Paris in 1844. As a young man he studied with Felix Barrias at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and exhibited at the Paris Salon for many years.

After fighting in the Franco-Prussian war, he moved to London, where he spent a year, followed by a move to New York in 1872. In New York he worked as an illustrator for Harper's and New York Graphic. While working on a sketching tour of the West with Paul Frenzeny for Harper's, Tavernier discovered the charms of San Francisco, where he settled from 1874-84.

He was considered San Francisco's most popular "bohemian" after joining the Bohemian Club there immediately upon his arrival. While his paintings were popular with the local press, and he enjoyed the companionship of fellow artists such as Julian Rix and Joseph Strong, his "bohemian" temperament and irresponsible attitude toward paying the bills caused him to have to flee to Hawaii in 1884.

A year later, Tavernier was honored to exhibit his work at the World's Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition in New Orleans, an exhibition of important historical paintings.

Tavernier's greatest legacies, however, are his masterful volcano paintings completed during his five years in Hawaii. His numerous spectacular oil paintings, particularly of his favorite subject, the Kilauea volcano, contributed to Hawaii's early popularity with tourists. They were, in fact, purchased by shipping companies with the express purpose of luring 'mainlanders' to come see the fiery lava flows in person.

His art found its way into nobler hands as well, including those of King Kalakaua and the Emperor of Japan. Often on a grand scale, many of the Kilauea paintings are panoramic.

Equally proficient with pastels as oils, Tavernier did not limit himself to volcano pictures, but also illustrated many aspects of Hawaiian life from his home base in Hilo.

Just as Tavernier was turning increasingly to other subjects, his unconventional lifestyle started taking its toll and he died of alcoholism in 1889. He is buried in Oahu, the Bohemian Club in San Francisco having sent a massive granite gravestone to mark his memory.

Sources include: WWAA; Forbes: Encounters With Paradise; Gerdts: Art Across America, vols. 2 and 3; Samuels & Samuels: Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West.

By Sarah Nelson

Biography from Museum of Nebraska Art
Jules Tavernier (1844-1889)

There were a number of excellent artists who made significant contributions to the history of art related to Nebraska, but for various reasons, many have been overlooked, neglected, or given little notice by historians and art museums until recently. Better known than many artists in this category, Jules Tavernier was an artist who was important as a newspaper illustrator and painter of western landscapes and Native American culture.

Tavernier was born in Paris to an English father and French mother. Because he had to take his father's nationality, he could not study at Paris' École des Beaux-Arts and instead trained in the private atelier of Felix Barrias, a master teacher at the Beaux-Arts. Tavernier painted with the Barbizon artists and exhibited for four years at the Paris Salon, then was a foot soldier in the "Artists' Battalion" during the nine-month Franco-Prussian war (1870-1871). After the war, he was an illustrator in London before going to New York to work for the New York Graphic, and later Harper's Weekly. Harper's teamed him with another French artist, Paul Frenzeny, to tour the American west in 1873 and 1874 and to illustrate the less traveled areas for the newspaper. Tavernier and Frenzeny traveled by horseback across Kansas to Colorado, then to Texas, back to Denver to spend the winter, and on to Wyoming at Fort Laramie in the spring of 1874. From there Tavernier went east along the Oregon Trail to western Nebraska near the Chimney Rock area, then north to the Red Cloud Agency near present-day Fort Robinson.

Although Tavernier spent only two months in the spring of 1874 in Nebraska, he produced several significant works of Indian encampments, the Red Cloud and Spotted Tail Agencies, the sun dance, and landscapes of Nebraska's Pine Ridge area including Crow Butte, and Chimney Rock on the Oregon Trail. Most of these artworks were produced in watercolor, pastel, and pencil sketches which he later painted in oil in his California and Hawaii studios. By the summer of 1874, Tavernier was in San Francisco where, for ten years, he painted the California landscape and his earlier sketches of western scenes. He married and was a popular "bohemian" in that city. Like his father, he had a conflicted attitude towards money, often not paying his creditors. In 1884 he joined several bohemian friends in Hawaii and became fascinated by the renewed activity of the Kilauea volcano, subsequently founding the volcano school of painting. He died there from alcoholism in 1889.

The Museum of Nebraska Art owns three significant works plus other wood engravings by Jules Tavernier. The first is a 5" x 7" watercolor titled Red Cloud Camp. The scene of supply wagons near the agency with the unique bluffs in the background was created on location, a direct experience of the Red Cloud Agency observation. Small paintings of this sort were intended by the artists to be reference materials for idealized works that would later be developed in the comforts of their studios. Today, historians consider these spontaneous, informal paintings to be important documents of the creative process and the artists' powers of direct observation. It is one of the few known dated painted sketches by Tavernier.

The second work is by Tavernier and Frenzeny who created a double-page wood engraving for Harper's Weekly titled Indian Sun Dance - Young Bucks proving their Endurance by Self Torture. Tavernier had difficulty but in the end received permission to observe this ritual and was one of the first artists to record this spiritual event and have the scene published in a newspaper. Multiple copies were made in 1875, although rare to find now.

The third work is an oil painting on canvas, 20½" x 35," titled Indian Encampment. The scene depicts a Sioux village with a few individuals walking amongst several tipis covered by a recent snowfall in the spring of the year. The painting is a variation of an often repeated scene. The encampment was probably one of many Sioux villages that Tavernier observed from the present-day city of Crawford, Nebraska to more than three miles east to the Crow Butte landmark in Nebraska Pine Ridge country. It is a romanticized scene with a striking sunset typical of Tavernier's studio western scenes.

The Museum of Nebraska Art has three works by Jules Tavernier and six others by Tavernier and Paul Frenzeny.

Researched and written by Gary Zaruba, 2011, a project of MONA's Bison Society.
Additional information provided by Claudine Chalmers, 2013.

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About  Jules Tavernier

Born:  1844 - Paris, France
Died:   1889 - Honolulu, Hawaii
Known for:  volcanic landscape and western scene painting

Essays referring to
Jules Tavernier

Artists who painted Hawaii