A landscape painter and printmaker, Yeargans was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1915. He majored in sign painting from 1930-1933 at Lincoln High School, and moved to New York in 1936, to join his older brother James Conroy Yeargans. James was working on the WPA murals in Harlem Hospital and introduced his younger brother to many prominent African-American artists of the Harlem Renaissance and to younger artists such as Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, Roy DeCarava, Robert Blackburn, and Norman Lewis.
Hartwell worked in ship drafting for the defense industry during World War II and enrolled in the Art Students League in New York City when the war was over. He studied painting and drawing with Morris Kantor and a
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