Isaacs Art Center

Juliette May Fraser (1887-1983)

Juliette May Fraser (1887-1983)

Juliette May Fraser (1887-1993) is perhaps best known for the murals she painted around the world. She also portrayed Hawaiian legends and other themes through linoleum cut, oil painting, ceramic, and fresco. Fraser's work was not flashy; in fact, critics sometimes described her art as "deceptively simple." She was born and raised in Honolulu; after graduating from Wellesley College in Massachusetts, she worked as an educator like her parents, who had come to the islands to teach. As contemporary New York artist John McPherson recently said, “sketches and drawings often are the most revealing aspects of an artist’s vision.” This is so true for Juliette May Fraser. Since childhood she had been captivated by art, so she saved up to study at the Art Students League in New York. Her works hang in museums around the world, including the Honolulu Museum of Art and in many Hawai’i public buildings. In the Hawai’i State Library, Fraser completed in 1934-35 a series of murals based on the legends of Hawai’i. 

At the University of Hawai’i in Honolulu, Fraser's fresco, Air (1953), is the largest and most complex of the frescoes in Bilger Hall and depicts the land-linked culture that sustained early Hawaiian people. Her 50-foot charcoal and sanguine mural (executed across 13 masonite panels) depicting a harvest and gift-giving ceremony, the Makahiki season, was re-dedicated and placed in Hamilton Library at the University of Hawai’i. Fraser created another “Harvest Celebration,” in 1938 for the Hawai’i Pavilion at the San Francisco World's Fair. Fraser is also noted for her print work and was associated with Honolulu Printmakers, which is said to be the oldest continuously active printmaking organization in the United States. The group was founded in 1928 by a group of local artists in an effort to encourage the art of printmaking in Hawai’i. Substantial sums are paid to obtain the choicest of her works, particularly for her frescos and watercolors.