The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate,
MD, Senior Contributing Editor.
His name is not familiar to many. He was a painter and a printmaker
and, where he was known, it was because of his murals, his woodcuts, and later,
his lithographs. Jean Charlot (1898-1979), whose great-grandmother was Mexican
and whose grandfather was a collector of pre-Columbian art, was born in Paris
at the tag end of the 19th century. He was only 22 when he painted his first
mural, a liturgical work that was included in an exhibition at the Louvre.
At age 23 he left Paris for good and settled in Mexico City, just in time
for the Mexican cultural renaissance. In the beginning he taught at the open-air
school in Coyoacan and by his mid-20s had completed at least two murals for
public buildings in Mexico City. One featured the conquest of the Aztec city
of Tenochtitlán by the Spanish in 1521, the other ordinary workers
at their daily tasks. He also went to Chichén Itzá, where he
worked at reproducing the paintings left by the Mayans. By 1923, he was working
as an assistant (along with other Mexican muralists such as Orozco and Siqueiros)
to Diego Rivera on the latter's public mural, The Creation. But Charlot remained restless and inquisitive and eventually settled
permanently in Hawaii. He died in Honolulu in 1979. Like a second Gauguin,
his search for the beautiful and the true had taken him from the city of Paris
to the Pacific islands.
Southgate MT. Washerwoman. JAMA. 2004;292(10):1148. doi:10.1001/jama.292.10.1148