Charles William Bartlett

1860 - 1940

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The English artist Charles W. Bartlett is now considered to have been one of the world’s finest woodblock print artists in the Japanese ukiyo-e (floating world) style. Born in Bridport, Dorset, he trained at the Royal Academy of Arts in London and went on to study in Paris under the orientalist artist Gustave Boulanger (1824-1888) at the Académie Julian. After the death of his wife, C.W. Bartlett spent several years travelling with the famous printmaker Frank Brangwyn and it is believed that it was Brangwyn who introduced Bartlett to the Japanese art of ukiyo-e colour printmaking involving the sequential superimposition of multiple blocks.

With financial backing from the family of his second wife, Charles W. Bartlett set off for a five year tour of Asia in 1913. Upon arriving in Japan in 1915 he met the publisher Shosaburo Watanabe who, struck by Bartlett’s watercolours, encouraged him to create a group of original prints using the traditional ukiyo-e method. The result was some of the finest colour woodblock prints of the generation, the success of which led Watanabe to harness the talents of Elizabeth Keith in a similar manner. After leaving Japan in 1917, Charles W. Bartlett settled in the island paradise of Hawaii for over 20 years until his death in 1940, just prior to the outbreak of war with Japan.