A Dutch mother and her children are the subject of "By the Dike Side, Marken, Holland (54/100)," by Charles W. Bartlett. The mother-and-child theme appeared frequently in the artist's work due to his sense of loss upon the death of his first wife in childbirth, closely followed by the death of the child. The print, one of three anonymously donated to the Assistance League of Hawaii, is available for purchase at Robyn Buntin of Honolulu, for $5,000.
Hawaii inspired prolific British artist
Charles W. Bartlett has long been associated with Hawaii because of his extensive portfolio of portraits of Hawaii society members, as well as prints depicting life in Hawaii during the time he lived here, from 1917 to his death in April 1940.
His portrait of Honolulu Academy of Arts founder Anna Rice Cooke is prominently displayed at the reception desk at the art museum, and his image of "Surf Riders, Honolulu," is a classic.
He was an accidental kamaaina who arrived here on vacation, fully intending to return home to England, where he was born in 1860, to an artistic family. At 23 he was accepted into the Royal Academy in London, and eventually studied in Paris and traveled extensively through India and Japan, where he collaborated with ukiyo-e (woodblock print) artist Shozoburo Watanabe in creating prints of India, Ceylon and the Dutch countryside.
Bartlett had already been heading in that direction, achieving the flattened imagery of Japanese prints through watercolor washes over charcoal or pencil sketches.
He was initially inspired by a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado" in London. An 1886 purchase of Japanese prints and drawings by the British Museum and an 1890 Paris exhibition of 25 Japanese prints led to a revival in printmaking, up until then considered to be an inferior form of artwork. Among those influenced by the prints' focus on shapes, line and color blocks were Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Edvard Munch and Bartlett. Upon moving to Hawaii, he would capture the lives of lei sellers and watermen through this medium.
The artist's 1933 self-portrait.
In Hawaii, Bartlett became a close friend of Cooke and was a welcome guest on the social circuit, with his wife, Kate, traveling frequently to Hanalei as guests of Kauai's Wilcox family.
By virtue of Hawaii's status as a visitor destination, many of Bartlett's works ended up going home with visitors, and because of this, "He is an artist who has an international reputation," said Robyn Buntin of Robyn Buntin of Honolulu, who specializes in handling the fine art of Asia and the Pacific. "I've seen at auction in the United States and Europe a substantial market for his paintings and etchings."
As much as Hawaii would like to claim him as our own, Buntin said, "His Hawaii prints are a very small part of his overall body of work."
More about the artist is available in "A Printmaker in Paradise: The Art and Life of Charles W. Bartlett," by Richard Miles and Jennifer Saville, published by the Honolulu Academy of Arts and available in its bookstore.