Charles Harold Bartlett Biography

Charles Harold Bartlett




Painter and printmaker Charles Harold “Bob” Bartlett was born in 1921 in Grimsby, the largest seaport in Europe at the time, located in North East Lincolnshire, England. After the death of his father Charles in 1927, his mother relocated the family to Eastbourne, also located along the coast and known for its idyllic chalk cliffs. Perhaps owing to these early seaside years, maritime landscapes and scenes would become among the largest influences in Bartlett’s work throughout his life.

He attended the Eastbourne School of Art, eventually earning a scholarship to the Royal College of Art. Before he could begin his studies, however, the outbreak of World War II swept him into the Guard Armoured Division where he served for four years. In 1946 he was able to return to the Royal College, focusing on engraving under the tutelage of noted printmaker Robert Austin. He was granted a fourth year, during which time he concentrated on painting. Studying alongside him were the artists Edward Middleditch, John Bratby, Jack Smith, and John Ward, with whom he would exhibit. In 1948, he married. Six years later he and his wife, Elizabeth, had a son, Charles.

It was Austin who encouraged Bartlett to purchase a boat and explore the East Anglian coast, not long after the end of the war. This would prove prophetic, as Bartlett was greatly inspired by the wild, mostly untouched coastline, then unreachable by foot. It would remain a primary source of inspiration even as he gravitated to more abstract compositions.

Bartlett began teaching at the Harrow College of Art in London in 1960, and in 1961 joined the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers, serving as vice president. During this same decade he began to incorporate color into his prints, using the multi-plate viscosity methods invented by Stanley William Hayter, who had recently returned to England after relocating his famous Atelier 17 to the U.S. during the war. In 1970, Bartlett joined the Royal Watercolor Society.  

Bartlett and Elizabeth divorced in the late 1960s, and in 1970 he remarried, this time to painter and printmaker Olwen Jones. The two often worked and exhibited together, their first show held in the early 70s at the Bankside Gallery. They were soon represented by the Bohun Gallery in Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire, as well as the Emma Mason Gallery in Eastbourne. Bartlett served as president of the Royal Watercolor Society from 1987 until 1992. In 1997, a retrospective of his work was held at the Bankside Gallery. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Albertina Collection in Vienna, the Arts Council of Britain, and the National Gallery of Australia.

Charles Howard Bartlett died on December 19, 2014.