Charles Bartlett (1860-1940)
Charles Bartlett was born in England and studied at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. In Paris he attended the Académie Julian,
where he was introduced to the arts of Asia, possibly through the painter Gustave Boulanger (1824-88). After returning to England in 1889,
Bartlett traveled for a few years in France and Italy with the painter, etcher, and printmaker Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956), who may have
been the first to show ukiyo-e prints to Bartlett. By the first decade of the twentieth century Bartlett was considered a master watercolorist
in Europe, and in 1908 he was among those who established the Société de la Peinture à l'Eau ("Society of
During a tour of Asia with his second wife, Bartlett met the publisher Shôzaburô Watanabe in 1915. The artist's watercolors
attracted the prescient and business-savy publisher, and the two collaborated on turning Bartlett's images from India and Japan into woodblock
prints. When Bartlett left Japan in 1917, he settled in Honolulu, although he continued to work with Watanabe, even including some shin hanga images of Hawaiian surfers for an exhibition in Japan in 1919. Bartlett's works were also shown with those of other 'shin hanga' artists, such
as Yamamura Kôka, Itô Shinsui, and Hiroshi Yoshida.
The view of the Taj Mahal illustrated here confirms the success of the collaboration between Bartlett and Watanabe. The publisher had just
initiated a full-scale attempt to create the shin hanga movement, employing master block cutters and printers to translate into the woodblock
medium a wide variety of sketches by native Japanese and western artists. In this example, the play of light and dark values is most effective,
particularly in the dappled sunlight and shadows cast by the trees in the foreground. The famous mausoleum does not dominate the scene as in most
depictions (see Yoshida). Bartlett chose instead to depict a partial view, with the main section
positioned in the background and shrouded in a bath of sunlight. The greater contrast and more highly charged chromatic values are given to the
structures on the building's wings and to the trees, and the intensity of the blues and greens is almost electric.
© 2001 by John Fiorillo
- Stephens, Amy Reigle (Ed.): The New Wave: Twentieth Century Japanese Prints from the Robert O. Muller Collection. London & Leiden:
Bamboo Publishing & Hotei Japanese Prints, 1993, pp. 211-213, plates 290-295.