Jean Charlot working on fresco “Inspiration” under the Studies Building Black Mountain College, Summer 1944. Courtesy of Western Regional Archives. Gift of Janet Heling Roberts.
Jean Charlot (b. 1898 Paris, France – d. 1979 Honolulu, Hawaii)
Jean Charlot was an illustrator, printmakcer, painter, and muralist born in Paris, France in 1898. While studying art in Paris, he joined the French Army and served during World War I. Charlot’s interest in his Mexican heritage on his maternal side led him to learn Nahuatl, the language of the Aztec, and he lived in Mexico for years working alongside Mexican muralists Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and others. He became an American citizen in 1940. In 1944, Josef Albers invited Charlot to teach at BMC for the summer. During this time, Charlot completed the frescos Knowledge and Inspiration beneath the college’s large, newly constructed Studies Building. These frescos still exist and recently received a much-needed conservation treatment by Crawford Conservation with grant funding BMCM+AC received from the Marion Stedman Covington Foundation. In addition to murals in Mexico and at Black Mountain College, Charlot painted significant murals in New York City and Georgia. Eventually he settled in Hawaii and taught at the University of Hawaii for many years.
Read about the conservation of Knowledge and Inspiration on our dedicated page, Jean Charlot Fresco Conservation