A Hawaiian Master Revisited: Bartlett in Europe

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    Holsteins, Edam (also called Feeding the Cows), 1912, Etching, engraving, drypoint hand-colored with watercolor, Gift of Charles W. Bartlett, 1927 (12,474)

September 17, 2009 - January 17, 2010
John Dominis and Patches Damon Holt Gallery (29)

Exhibition Overview

The Academy’s year-long celebration of the life and career of Charles William Bartlett (1860-1940) continues with a second rotation of the artist’s paintings, drawings and prints in the John Dominis and Patches Damon Holt Gallery. Departing from the Hawaiian scenes that have come to define Bartlett’s storied career, this exhibition will focus on the artist’s early years in Europe.

In 1883, Bartlett—then an art student at the Royal Academy in London—traveled to Paris to study with the painters Jules Lefebvre and Gustave Boulanger at the esteemed Académie Julian.  At the Academy, Bartlett mastered the finer points of traditional painting and draftsmanship; in the cafes and alternative salons of Paris, however, he became immersed in the thriving, dynamic avant-garde. In Paris, Bartlett witnessed the rise of post-impressionism; shared in the vogue for ukiyo-e prints (three decades before his own trip to Japan); and moved in an international circle of artists that included Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, Paul Sérusier, and Paul Gauguin. No doubt influenced by this creative ferment—as well as by the painter-printmakers Edvard Munch and James Ensor—Bartlett expanded his aesthetic repertoire beyond the bland virtuosity of academia to experiment with etching and watercolor as legitimate expressive media, and to develop a formal vocabulary that echoed the compressed perspective and unmediated color that he had discovered in Japanese prints.

The exhibition will show how this early experimental moment gave impetus to Bartlett’s work of the 1890s and early 1900s, when the artist, following the untimely death of his first wife, traveled to Brittany and Holland to sketch the noble toil and quiet domesticity of rural life, and returned home to develop these sketches into works of stark tonality, compositional daring, and remarkable psychological depth.–Theresa Papanikolas, Curator of European and American Art.

A Printmaker in Paradise: The Art and Life of Charles W. Bartlett catalog is available at the Honolulu Museum of Art Shop and online.