Remembering Jack Lord



Water Lilies 

Painted by Jack for Marie

in the style of the French Impressionists

Jack’s “studio” is a corner of his bedroom at the Kahala Apartments, a gorgeous complex 

       near the Kahala Hilton. The view from Jack and wife Marie’s third story suite is

       staggering, the blue Pacific stretching as far as the eye can see, and obviously the

       inspiration for some of Lord’s early work, which includes seascapes, angry volcanoes,

       and palm-studded beaches. At $10,000 a _?_, one certainly wouldn’t call Lord a Sunday

       painter, although that’s usually his painting day.

    “Five-0” shoots Monday through Saturday in Stars Who Paint. (publication data unknown)

When I was 12 years old, I entered a poster contest

sponsored by the ASPCA. My poster won first prize.

~ Jack Lord

(Hoffman, Jim. "Is 'Stoney' a Phony?" in Motion Picture, Vol 53, No 628. May 1963, 49.)

The Sisters by Jack Lord

Jack's estate sold a set of this work, each with a different interpretation of the clouds.
Together, they told a lot about how Jack worked. Unfortunately, their next owner split up the set.

Jack Lord was an artist: a painter, a collector of art, and a photographer. He was also an artist in another sense. He experimented with different styles, so much so that art appraisers today have difficulty in determining whether a work is actually his. He even dabbled in the styles of the French impressionists as evidenced by a scene of water lilies, which he painted for his wife. Also indicative of his artistic nature, he was a harsh critic of his own work and is reputed to have destroyed thirty percent of his paintings. 

Art was Jack's first love. He once said he only entered acting as a way to make his name known, so he could sell his art. The plan worked, and by the time Hawaii Five-0 ended production, Jack was selling his art for astronomical sums -- in the thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, the plan had a side effect that Jack probably would not have asked for if he had known it would be involved. As he gained in popularity as an actor, the demands on his time and attention increased exponentially. The press wanted to interview him. His fans wanted his autographs. The naysayers spread their gossip. It all became unbearable. And, so, when McGarrett hung up his holster after twelve seasons, Jack retired -- back to his art.



Although Jack enjoyed acting and directing, his first love was painting. It was an art that he learned while growing up. In part, he learned from art classes -- first, at John Adams High School and, later, at New York University, where he majored in fine art. He also learned from his older brother, Bill, who achieved a fair degree of success, painting. Jack looked up to Bill, who was two years his senior; in fact, while Jack was in college, he and Bill went in together to open the Village Art Academy in Greenwich Village.

While Jack was at sea -- first, as a summer employee, while still in high school, and, later, while he was in the Merchant Marines -- he sketched and painted likenesses of the scenery he saw from the ship, scenes of Europe, the Mediterranean, and Africa. His work in those years reflected a student’s mentality, for they tended to be architectural, as in the painting of the Mediterranean fishing boat, which first appeared in “Highest Castle, Deepest Grave” (Season 4). (Coopersmith, Jerome. “Highest Castle, Deepest Grave” on Hawaii Five-0 (Season 4). CBS / Paramount, 1972. )

As Jack developed his talent, he began painting large and detailed landscapes and seascapes, some of which have brought as much as $10,000. Some of these works have appeared in more than 40 galleries and museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Whitney Museum in New York, The Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York, the the Tate Gallery in London, the Biblioteque Nationale in Paris, the Library of Congress in Washington, and the Honolulu Arts Council in Hawai‘i. We can see them on Hawaii Five-0, especially in the episode "Invitation to Murder" (Season 10). Many of the paintings in the Barlow home were painted by Jack.

Later, many of Jack's works took on characteristics of primitive painting. In his unnamed anthurium painting, the colors are not true to the flower, and the bowl in which they sit is lopsided, yet the picture works. There is a detailing to even this most primitive of works that lends an authenticity to it, despite its casual presentation. It is as though one could reach out and touch the blossoms, and they would feel like anthurium blossoms really feel. One might wonder whether he painted his anthurium work during or after filming "Murder - Eyes Only" or "Honor is an Unmarked Grave" (both in Season 8), for those episodes featured large and numerous arrangements of red anthuriums. (Freeman, Bud. “Honor is an Unmarked Grave” on Hawaii Five-0 (Season 8). CBS / Paramount, 1975.)

Of his change in style, Jack said transferring mental images to canvass is challenging in that he tries to capture only the important elements, which he considers to be most memorable. A good example of this is seen in The Sisters in which he captures a large, white moon (some say it is the sun) shining through a grove of palm trees growing on a grassy shore. We don’t see anyone or any boats or buildings, only the moon, the trees, and the grass, what he wanted us to see. If we compare this to one of his seashore paintings, where we see mountains and clouds in the background, waves crashing against the shore, and maybe the glow of a sunset in between, we can see a marked difference. In the first, we know what to look at. In the second, we have to explore each element in turn, as well as take in the overall effect.

Don’t be misled into thinking transferring mental images to canvass was any simpler than painting a full landscape. Jack left behind artist proofs showing how he experimented with multiple drafts of lithographs until he achieved the desired effect. He also left behind proofs showing the various stages he went through in the creation of his lithographs.

Jack used bright colors and often included a verse of poetry, either in or around the scene. His butterfly, entitled Pulelehua, possessed bright and vivid colors, rather than those possessed by the butterfly in real life. His landscapes are noted for their use of bold colors. Sky blue wouldn't do; Jack used royal blue.

He did not completely surrender traditional painting techniques. Some of his later works were much truer to life, such as his portrayal of the volcano on Maui, Haleakala, which reflects elements of French impressionism, as well as the realism of the boulders in the foreground and the clouds encircling the apex of the mountain.

It seems almost certain that most people became aware of Jack’s art when original works and lithographs were sold at his and Marie’s online estate auction in 2007. Jack’s works continue to sell today for generous sums, sometimes for ten times as much as they fetched at the auction.

Jack once said he had abandoned art in favor of acting, because he did not have the talent necessary to paint as the French impressionists had done (Oppenheimer, Peer J. “Jack Lord: Painting or Performing, He’s a Perfectionist” in Family Weekly. September 28, 1969, p. 7.). In time, he gained the maturity and self-confidence necessary to realize he did not need to emulate the French impressionists in order to paint. Even so, it has been said that he destroyed more than 30 percent of his paintings (Oppenheimer, Peer J. “Jack Lord: Painting or Performing, He’s a Perfectionist” in Family Weekly. September 28, 1969, p. 7.). 


Jack’s Private Collection

Jack collected art and is reputed to have had quite a sizable inventory of works by both traditional and contemporary artists. He owned a reproduction of Paul Gauguin's Fatata Te Miti, which, along with other pieces from his collection, appeared on Hawaii Five-0 in the episode “How to Steal a Masterpiece” (Season 7) (Freeman, Bud. “How to Steal a Masterpiece” on Hawaii Five-0 (Season 7). CBS / Paramount, 1974.).


Jack's Donations 

Jack is known to have donated pieces from his collection -- some, his own work and, some, the work of others -- to art museums. Jack's donation of a number of works by French artist Jean Charlot to the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia prompted the university to have an exhibition of Charlot's work and to establish a new museum publication showcasing each of the museum's exhibitions " a direct result of [Jack's] gift..." (Paul, William D. Jr. Letter to Jack Lord. Georgia Museum of Art. February 1, 1978.)  Jack's donations are named in the catalogue and were a part of the exhibition. It is quite an impressive list, as you will see in the following summary chart, which our member, Steve's Girl, generated:



Jack was also a photographer. He said he "fell in love with photography" while a merchant seaman, visiting foreign ports.

                 I used the camera to record what I saw, then I'd translate it into painting. Now I work from

                 the subconscious. Art is the expression of the man. It's like fishing with a net with a big mesh.

                 All the little things fall through. The big things remain. What I try to do is, I try to work

                 from memory. Then it's different, fresh, unique, my own.  

                    (Witherwax, Rita. “Jack Lord: The Man Behind McGarrett” in Aloha. October 1980, p. 26.)

With all of Hawai‘i as his subject, he took photographs of the islands and compiled them into a book, which he called Jack Lord’s Hawaii. Information about it remains elusive. Perhaps, it was published; perhaps, it was not. In any case, it surely was a masterpiece if we judge by the words he wrote:

               We love the place – the fresh clean air, especially after having lived in Los Angeles and

               New York City with their air-pollution problems. We love the sparkling blue sea forty feet

               from our lanai. The birds and flowers (there are over three hundred varieties of flowering

               plants and trees). We love the people and their Polynesian and Oriental backgrounds,

              customs, folk ways, mores. 

         (Lord, Jack. “Aloha ‘Oe” in “Jack Lord, Holiday’s Lord of the Leis in Hawaii” in ASTA Holiday. May 1977.)

At one time, a traveling exhibition of 80 of Jack's photographs toured the United States. Included were many portraits that Jack took on the sets while acting. The subjects of the portraits included Marlon Brando, Gary Cooper, and William Holden, among others.  (“Lord Says He Found Paradise in Hawaii.” United Press International. Home Notes: Tribute. August 27, 1975, p. 12-H. )


Jewelry Design

As if painting and photography weren't enough, Jack also designed jewelry. During his world travels, he purchased beads and other jewelry-making accoutrements, which he took home and made into fascinating necklaces and other items, which both he and Marie wore. 

Marie is seen wearing a necklace that Jack designed.

Photographer unknown