"Hanalei Fishermen, Hawaii (8/75)," circa 1923, a hand-colored etching by Charles W. Bartlett, is one of three prints anonymously donated to the Assistance League of Hawaii. It's valued at $22,000. The copper plate for this print is in the collection of the Honolulu Academy of Arts.
The art of generosity
The sale of three art prints by Charles W. Bartlett will benefit the Assistance League of Hawaii
The Assistance League of Hawaii welcomes any donation, no matter how small, the sale of which goes toward the nonprofit group's mission of offering assistance and educational programs for children, women, seniors and others in need.
So, it was business as usual when a donation of three art prints appeared from an anonymous donor. At that moment the league didn't realize the enormity of the gift.
All three are the work of Charles W. Bartlett, the artist who, late in life, was dubbed the "hermit of Manoa" because of his focus on his work. Two of the works, depicting pastoral scenes from Holland, are valued at $5,000 each; the third, "Hanalei Fishermen," is in excellent condition and is being made available for purchase through Robyn Buntin of Honolulu on the league's behalf. Its price: $22,000.
"It's one of those wonderful Las Vegas stories that come along once in a while. This sort of 'Antiques Roadshow' thing can happen, where something is taken out of a closet and has substantial value," said Buntin, who specializes in the fine arts and antiquities of Asia and the Pacific, and who was once called upon to appraise 250 of Bartlett's works by the artist's descendants.
The drypoint etchings are monoprints each hand-colored by the artist, so that "each must be considered an original print," said Buntin, who delights in the variance from piece to piece.
"Bartlett never did any kind of multiple prints. He hand-colored each one so in a body of 75 prints, what you got was a full range of palette.
"You can essentially have the same print, and each one will really look different because the palette changed."
Another donated work Bartlett's, "Holsteins, Edam (2/75)," shows a Dutch farmer tending to his herd. It's valued at $5,000, available at Robyn Buntin of Honolulu.
Buntin said he's seen four versions of "Hanalei Fishermen," and each provides a different experience for the viewer. One might give the "feeling of an overcast day, and another will give the feeling that it was the middle of a sunny day and all is fine with the world. The mood has changed," he said.
The "Hanalei Fishermen" print now in his care is in excellent condition and signed, although Buntin said a lack of a signature would not detract from the value of a Bartlett print because the artist wasn't meticulous about signing his work.
"You have to consider the time in which he worked. Signing one's work was not a rigorous discipline. Sometimes he did it, sometimes he did not. He was not the kind of person who would purport to be a global or significant artist," said Buntin, although the artist was well known in European critical circles, having shown his work alongside artists such as John Singer Sargent and Edgar Degas.
"I'm very happy to be working with the Assistance League. The sale of this will go some way in helping them," Buntin said.
According to ALH President Gretchen Neal, nearly 90 percent of ALH's funding for philanthropic projects is generated through the thrift shop.
"I think all of us along the way: The league, myself and the final customer need to express gratitude and thanks to the donor," Buntin said. "This was a very generous gift."
The Assistance League of Hawaii Thrift Shop is at 1505 Young St., open 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays to Saturdays. Donations made to the thrift shop are tax-deductible. Call 946-1505. Robyn Buntin of Honolulu is at 848 S. Beretania St. Call 523-5913.