Charles William Bartlett, (1860-1940), Hawaii, also called The Surf Rider; Surf Rider. Hawaii.; The Surf King; The Duke, circa 1920-21

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Hawaii, also called The Surf Rider; Surf Rider. Hawaii.; The Surf King; The Duke, circa 1920-21
Charles William Bartlett, (1860 – 1940)
Color Woodcut Block Print on Paper
10.5″ x 15″, image size, 11.5″ x 16″, sheet size
Signed in graphite very faintly lower left margin: Charles W. Bartlett; signed with monogram in key block, printed in red ink l/l image: CWB (inscribed in a rectangle); titled in key block, printed in red ink l/l image; HAWAII; Copyright stamp l/l image and margin.

Comments taken from Bartlett’s sketchbook (p. 10): The surf king

Bartlett published several years apart two versions of the single surfer that seem to share many but not all of the same blocks, the first being Hawaii, 1918, (No. 45), the later Hawaii, (No. 46).  Although the two prints share the same key block, for the later edition, the date “1918” was removed from it, changing the title to just “Hawaii.”  The prints are also distinguished by, among other things in no. 46, the halo or aura surrounding the figure of the here-darker surfer, said to be a depiction of the Olympic swimming champion Duke Kahanamoku, the spray of water covering his feet and greater detail to the water surface.

SOLD
EXTREMELY RARE PRINT WITH VERY LOW EDITION PRINTED 

Known for watercolor paintings and woodblock prints, especially of scenes from his travels through Southeast Asia, China, and later Hawaii, Charles Bartlett was born and raised in England.  He first work in a metallurgical company and then at the age of twenty-three began a fine-art career by enrolling for three years at the Royal Academy in London.  Then he went to Paris to study at the Academie Julian in Paris. In 1889, he returned to England and married but lost his wife and infant son in childbirth.

He spent a year traveling in Europe with his friend and fellow artist, Frank Brangwyn, and painted most figure works of peasant women and children, likely working through his grief at his own personal loss.  Later he did landscapes as well as peasant genre, and worked in both oil and watercolor.  He was especially commended for his watercolors, and in recognition of this skill, was one of the first 25 members elected to the prestigious group, Societe Peinture a l’Eau, in Paris.

In the following years, Bartlett returned to England, remarried in 1898, and exhibited several oil paintings including at the Royal Academy and the Salon des Beaux Arts. At this time, he became interested in printmaking, especially etchings.

In 1913, he and his wife began a year and a half sketching and painting trip to India and also went to Ceylon, Indonesia, and China. In 1915, they arrived in Tokyo, Japan.  There they met the Austrian artist Fritz Capelari who introduced them to publisher Watanabe Shozaburo.  From this meeting Bartlett and Watanabe formed a collaboration whereby Bartlett’s watercolors were made into woodblock prints. Bartlett used Watanabe print shop as a work place for carving, and the resulting prints had simple designs and flat areas of rich color in styles ranging from modern to traditional.

In 1917, Bartlett and his wife Catherine went to Hawaii intending after a short visit to return to England, but they were so enamored with the scenery and people of Hawaii that they settled in Honolulu.  Working as an association of Watanabe, Bartlett designed woodblocks that were made into prints.  He and his wife continued to travel widely, and attended print exhibitions on the mainland United States.  However, they built their life in Hawaii, being active in the art community and making good income from his printmaking activity, although Bartlett also received portrait commissions from wealthy, prominent Hawaiians.

During the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, most of Bartlett’s woodblocks were destroyed, but Watanabe was able to salvage some from his collection as was Bartlett, so prints continued to be made throughout the 1920s.  After Bartlett’s death in 1940, the remaining blocks for his prints were scored to prevent reprinting

In 1928, Bartlett was a key organizer of the Honolulu Printmakers as well as local artists A.S. Macleod, John Kelly and Huc Luquiens.  From 1929, the group has held an annual exhibition at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, and with each exhibition, they offer a gift limited edition print by an outstanding member.  In 1933, Bartlett was chosen to create the very first gift print, a color etching called Java, depicting an Indonesian peasant family returning home after a day’s work, against a background of rice paddies and palm trees.

In 1939, the Honolulu Academy held a major exhibition of Bartlett’s work with 63 paintings and prints.  He died the following year at the age of eighty.  In 2001, the
Honolulu Academy of Arts held a retrospective including all of his woodblock print designs as well as a collection of original works in oil and watercolor.

Sources:
Peter Falk, Who’s Who in American Art
David Forbes: Encounters With Paradise