Japanese Woodblock Print, 1916, published by Watanabe with pre-earthquake seal (1916-1924 printing)
SIZE IN INCHES: 16 x 11 inches
COMMENTS: Rarely seen
CHARLES WILLIAM BARTLETT (1 June 1860–16 April 1940) was an English painter and printmaker who settled in Hawaii. Bartlett studied metallurgy and worked in that field for several years. At age 23, he enrolled in the Royal Academy in London, where he studied painting and etching. After three years of study in London, he entered the private studio school Academie Julian in Paris, where he studied under Jules Joseph Lefebvre (1836–1911) and Gustave Boulanger (1824–1888).
In 1913, with financial backing from his wife's well-to-do family, the Bartletts traveled to the undivided Pre-Partition British India, Ceylon, Indonesia, China, and Japan. He arrived in Japan in 1915, where he met woodblock print publisher Watanabe Shozaburo (1885–1962), who was a major force in early 20th-century Japanese art shin hanga. In 1916 Watanabe published 21 woodblocks from Bartlett's designs, including six prints of Japanese landscapes. In 1917, Bartlett and his second wife left Japan for England; however, they stopped off in Hawaii, where they remained—never returning to England. He did visit Japan in 1919, where he created sixteen shin-hanga prints for Watanabe.
Anna Rice Cook (1853–1934), who founded the Honolulu Museum of Art, became Bartlett's advocate and patron. In 1928, Bartlett helped to found the Honolulu Printmakers along with local artists Alexander Samuel MacLeod, John Melville Kelly, and Huc-Mazelet Liquiens. Charles Bartlett died in Hawaii at the age of 79 on 16 April 1940.
In 1923 Tokyo was struck by the devastating Great Kanto Earthquake. In the fires that broke out after the earthquake, Watanabe's print shop was destroyed with all the wood block sets for Watanabe published prints stored inside—including the blocks for Bartlett's prints. Thus pre-earthquake prints published by Watanabe are a rare find today, having never been reprinted, and only limited editions having been published prior to 1923.