The serious squint of actor Jack Lord, best known for his role as TV detective Steve McGarrett on the original series Hawaii Five-0, has always exuded a mysterious power. Born John Joseph Patrick Ryan in 1920, Lord attended New York University on a football scholarship where he studied fine arts. He served in the U.S. Maritime Service and during deployment to Washington D.C., started acting in training films and launched a career in theater. That he looked like a ‘Greek god,’ according to stories of their courtship by fashion designer and second wife Marie, probably helped.
Lord brought Broadway acting chops to Hollywood after WWII, but it took a while for the movie industry to seize on his presence. By 1958 the actor’s star was on the rise playing the virile “Buck” in the steamy film version of God’s Little Acre. Based on the notorious novel by Erskine Caldwell and co-starring Tina Louise, Vic Morrow, and Buddy Hackett, who would also have careers in hit television series, the movie was filmed in downtown Stockton and on the rural edges of the city.
It was then, perhaps to escape the intensity of the sexually and politically charged drama they were filming, or maybe just to get out of the valley’s summer heat, that Jack Lord discovered The Haggin Museum.
In 1959 he made his first gift to the Haggin, beginning the philanthropic relationship at the core of the exhibit Picasso, Miró & Hawaii Five-0. The gift included an assortment of Japanese woodblock prints, decorative art objects and textiles. It was followed in 1972 by a donation of more than 70 lithographs.
Most were published by Fernand Mourlot, whose Paris studio was the epicenter of fine art printmaking. Founded in 1852 the Atelier Mourlot originally made printed wallpaper. It was transformed by the founder’s grandson when he invited the most important modern artists of the 20th century — Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró, Marc Chagall and many others — to experiment with fine art printmaking in his workshop. There they embraced the challenge of lithography, a process involving drawing directly on a large piece of limestone.
The prints in this exhibit represent key ideas in modern art. Modernists recognized traditional art’s inability to adequately represent a world dramatically changed by the Industrial Revolution. They turned their attention to dreams, fantasies and emotions. They also embraced formal experimentation. Drawing and paint handling became freer and color more expressive. Many artists turned toward abstraction.
In addition to the prints published by Mourlot, Jack Lord gifted the Haggin with a significant collection by lesser-known artist Jean Charlot, a French muralist and lithographer who lived and worked with friend Diego Rivera in Mexico before moving Hawaii. This work is on view for the first time in Stockton.
Lord’s love of printmaking shaped the collection he so generously gave to The Haggin Museum, which includes a lithograph of his own. Another print, from the same edition, is held in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
This exhibition is organized by The Haggin Museum with guest curators Monika Meler and Bett Schumacher from University of the Pacific. Featuring 47 restored lithographs, it provides an American perspective on European modernism and unique insight into the mind underneath that amazing head of hair.