CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSEL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Lynn Blocker Krantz supervised an exhibit of 22 Matson prints for the Royal Hawaiian Hotel's 80th-anniversary celebration.
Prints of the sea
Lynn Blocker Krantz is blond and blue-eyed and pretty much what the Beach Boys sang about in "California Girls," but at age 14 she felt a mystical connection with Hawaii and hasn't let go.
"My folks were on vacation at the Royal Hawaiian, and the day we got there I wandered out onto the lawn as the sun was going down and, wow, it hit me," she says. "Hawaii will always be part of my life."
Matson Art Exhibition
On view: Through April
Place: Royal Hawaiian Hotel lower lobby
A couple of decades older and now the go-to person for Matson Navigation's archives, licensing and product development office, Krantz was back at the Royal Hawaiian last week, handling Matson's contribution to the hotel's 80th anniversary. Krantz oversaw restoration and reproduction of the steamship company's famous "menu" paintings, and 22 high-quality giclee prints of the paintings are now on display in the hotel.
We're not talking menu-size items. Eugene Savage's famous murals, for example, were 4 by 8 feet -- plus frame -- and they're full-size here.
"Savage's eye for detail is amazing, and you can see it for the first time," said Krantz, whose book "To Honolulu in Five Days" documented the Boat Days period of Hawaiian history. "He painted the murals in 1938 and 1939, but they were removed when the war broke out and stored at Matson's offices. Their debut on the menus wasn't until 1948."
Matson's A-team of artists also included John Kelly, Frank McIntosh, Louis Macouillard, Eldridge Logan and Richard Moore. Their work was intended to decorate both the ship and the ship's menus, and these items have become sought-after collectors' pieces, prime examples of Hawaiiana pop culture. Moore was the most recent artist to work for Matson, commissioned in 1980 to paint the SS Lurline on its inaugural voyage to Hawaii in 1933.
"It just seemed like a natural thing to do when the anniversary came up," said Krantz. Matson and the Royal Hawaiian partnered in breaking ground for the nascent Hawaiian tourism business, and their public relations departments basically created the modern image of Hawaii.
Eugene Savage's famous Matson "menu" paintings, including "Aloha ... the Universal Word," became iconic representations of Hawaii.
The original paintings, said Krantz, are oil on canvas. The originals in the Matson offices in Oakland had gotten a bit dusty over the years, and the frames needed replacing. They were stripped from the back framing, cleaned by a San Francisco art conservator and then restretched onto new backing and reframed with archival materials.
"Pretty much a big ordeal," said Krantz. "They're so big! And then they were loaded onto a truck and taken to a photo studio for high-resolution copying."
Not your laptop's scanner, either. They were copied onto 8-by-10-inch color transparencies, the cameras for which, as Krantz points out, aren't exactly thick on the ground. One had to be tracked down in San Francisco for the task.
"The transparencies hold a lot of detail," said Krantz. "I mean, a LOT of detail. With these, they could be printed onto giclee canvas with incredible fidelity."
COURTESY FRANK WING
Lynn Blocker Krantz supervised the copying of the original Matson oil paintings in San Francisco. They were photographed, then reproduced in giclee, a fine-art reproduction technique that uses archival-quality inks and 8- to 12-color ink-jet printers.
The pictures will be up in the Royal Hawaiian at least through April and maybe longer. Civilians who wish their own giclee prints -- in three different sizes -- can go to the Gallery Lau Chun at the hotel or Pictures Plus. Prices are still being worked out, but keep in mind that giclee printing is far more faithful and durable than your basic lithograph.
"It's just awesome to see them up in the hotel," said Krantz. "They look like they've always belonged, as if they were made for the space. A blend of culture and history. People are already asking if they were hung there originally, but no one seems to know."
At a reception to celebrate the hotel's anniversary last week, the guests included Bill Tapia, 99, who performed at the hotel on opening night on Feb. 1, 1927. He performed again this year.
"Oh my gosh, that was so cool!" thrilled Krantz. "Of course I wore my 1949 Eugene Savage print dress -- it's older than I am! -- that was made by the Kamehameha Garment Co.
"Matson is so proud to be part of this anniversary. It's good for them but it's GREAT for me!"