Paul Jacoulet was born in Paris and moved to Japan at the age of four as his father had been hired two years before as a French language teacher in Japan. While attending the elementary school affiliated with the Higher Normal School of Tokyo, he also studied classical Japanese literature and calligraphy, the samisen and gidayu style ballads. Around the age of twelve, Jacoulet began studying oil painting from Seiki Kuroda and Saburosuke Okada and Japanese style painting from Terukata Ikeda and his wife Shoen. While Jacoulet began working as an interpreter for the French Embassy to Japan in 1916, he continued his painting studies, and also continued to collect ukiyo-e prints.
Around 1930 Jacoulet began to take annual recuperative visits to the Marianas, Carolines and other islands of the South Pacific, where he created a number of sketches of the local scenery and customs. He also began a considerable collection of butterflies during this period. Starting around 1930, he stayed in Korea, as his mother, then remarried to a Japanese physician, was living in Seoul. In 1931 he moved to Akasaka. Through the efforts of Shizuya Fujikake, he began to make prints, and in 1933 he established the Jacoulet Institute of Prints. The following year he began to publish his own woodblock prints. Jacoulet's works were introduced in the magazine Ukiyo-e Geijutsu, and in 1936 his first one-man show opened at the Matsuzakaya in Ueno. The following year he held his first one-man show outside of Japan, this time in Honolulu.
In 1944, he evacuated to Karuizawa to escape the intensified fighting of World War II, and he spent the remainder of his life in this region. His works caught the attention of the American occupying forces, and individual shows of his works were held at the Yokohama Educational Center and in Tachikawa. In 1952, one-man shows opened in New York, Paris, Helsinki and other cities. In 1954 he planned an around the world journey, and while some 100 or more sketches remain from his stay in Australia, Tahiti and other locales, they were not realized as woodblock prints because of his death in 1960.
Jacoulet's woodblock prints, through their fresh, bold style completely unlike that of Japanese artists, garnered great acclaim from the time of their original release prior to World War II. Jacoulet had studied
Japanese arts and culture since childhood, and his works show a thorough knowledge of papers and pigments gained from his life shared with his block carvers and printers. These characteristics set Jacoulet apart from the other foreign ukiyo-e artists. He continued making works into the 1950s, and in this regard he stands on the boundary between Shm-hanga and contemporary prints.