(1872 - 1930)
Charles Webster Hawthorne was active/lived in Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, Maryland. Charles Hawthorne is known for portrait, genre and landscape painting, teaching.
Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography from the Archives of askART
Charles Webster Hawthorne
Charles W. Hawthorne (1872-1930) was one of America's most dynamic, penetrating and forthright portrait painters, as well as a creative, inspiring teacher. A painter's painter, Hawthorne ran a summer school in Provincetown - the Cape Cod School of Art - for over thirty years and made it a leading artists' colony of plein-air impressionist-inspired talents. Hawthorne grew up in Richmond, Maine, the son of Joseph Jackson Hawthorne and Cornelia Jane Smith Hawthorne. Having discovered his artistic abilities at an early age, Charles convinced his parents to allow him to study in New York in 1893, at the Art Students League then at the National Academy of Design. His teachers included Frank Vincent DuMond, George de Forest Brush, and William Merritt Chase. During the day, Hawthorne earned his living as a dock worker and he was employed at J. and R. Lamb Studios, a stained glass factory. In 1896, Hawthorne enrolled in Chase's summer school at Shinnecock Hills. During the following season, he was acting as Chase's assistant and in New York he helped him organize the Chase School. There he met his future wife, Ethel M. Campbell, the corresponding secretary, and one of Lorado Taft's students. Hawthorne's son Joseph, whom Hawthorne depicted as The Fencer (Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, Lincoln, Nebraska), described how his father lived in a fisherman's shack at Shinnecock (Hawthorne on Painting, 1938, p. xi).
To Hawthorne's surprise, Chase abandoned the Chase School without considering Hawthorne's future. His only consolation was a trip to Europe, which gave Hawthorne an appreciation for the old masters, including Titian, Frans Hals, and Rembrandt. Their classic monumentality was combined with Chase's robust, painterly Munich School technique to form Hawthorne's own forceful, sincere style. In Zandvoort, Holland, Hawthorne discovered the Hague School and he visited the Frans Hals Museum. He declared, "When I came here and saw the Hals, I was so overpowered with the brushwork, I couldn't see anything else." (Hawthorne to Ethel Marion Campbell, 24 August 1898). 1899 marks Hawthorne's discovery of Provincetown, still an unspoiled, inexpensive fishing village, an ideal place to start an artists' colony dedicated to outdoor figure painting. He moved into an old house on Miller Hill, which overlooks the Bay: in 1907 he added a large barn-like building for his school.
For his students Hawthorne posed the model in the brilliant sunlight so that they could concentrate on rendering the effects of light. Hawthorne on Painting (1938) begins with a chapter on the outdoor figure. The figure in sunlight, for the beginner, was a clearly seen silhouette-like object. "The fundamental thing [for Hawthorne was] the mechanics of putting one spot of color next to another." (Hawthorne on Painting, 1938, p. 23). Advising students to avoid detail, Hawthorne wanted them to capture the model's basic forms, using a limited range of values. The figure was not to be conceived as a softly modeled form, as were the traditional, academic engravings of sculpture with their full range of values, the method that was taught in the European academies for centuries. Like Claude Monet, Hawthorne told his students to avoid drawing, while putting down spots of color. "Let color make form — do not make form and color it" (Hawthorne on Painting, 1938, p. 26). Students were further advised to paint with a palette knife, or with a broad brush; since they were young and free, he wanted them to paint freely. Ideally, students would convey "the thrill of seeing the thing for the first time" (p. 29). Most of all, Hawthorne encouraged students to be bold, even to be a bit brutal. Practically like a Fauve, Hawthorne insisted: "Go out like a savage, as if paint had just been invented." (p. 26). At the weekly Saturday morning critiques, students who successfully rendered the model in a broad manner by juxtaposing interesting areas of color were praised. Those who attempted to be decorative, those who approached the subject timidly, were criticized. The authoritative and imposing Hawthorne was described as intimidating by many a "weak-kneed" pupil (Seckler, 1977, p. 23).
In 1903, Hawthorne married Ethel, and he began collecting impressive awards with the National Academy's First Hallgarten Prize in 1904 for Girl in Green. Then came the Second Hallgarten Prize in 1906, a silver medal at the Buenos Aires Exposition in 1910, and in the following year he was elected a full academician and was awarded the NAD's Clarke Prize for The Trousseau (Metropolitan Museum of Art). Hawthorne won the First Altman Prize and Isidore Gold Medal from the National Academy for The Offering, a modern version of the Madonna and Child with Hawthorne's favorite accessory -- a platter of recently caught fish from P-Town's docks. Throughout his life, Hawthorne was winning prizes, too numerous to list here (at least twenty more followed). Hawthorne's biography is fairly uneventful, apart from a trip to Italy in 1906 and another to Spain and France toward the end of his life; he stayed in Provincetown until his death in 1930. In 1909, Hawthorne was appointed to take over Robert Henri's classes at the New York School of Art.
In Provincetown Hawthorne resisted the onslaught of modernists and the "invasion" from Greenwich Village. This bohemian circle included journalist and novelist Hutchins Hapgood, George Cram Cook and his wife Susan Glaspell, Mabel Dodge, John Reed, William Zorach, and Eugene O'Neill. The rebels who went there in 1915 had lost their idealism. Hapgood (1939, p. 391) explained, "All existing theories had been shown to be impotent," upon the realization that a terrible war was inevitable. Then O'Neill entered the scene, just then "coming out of a season-long drinking binge" (Watson, 1991, p. 219). His play Bound East for Cardiff opened on July 28, 1916. It was a wild party thrown by those disillusioned crusaders and anti-establishment artists, sexually liberated couples, such as O'Neill and Louise Bryant, artists promenading in Cubist costumes, nude bathing parties, and what Hapgood characterized as a general spirit of suspicion and ill-will, a "certain instinct to destroy each other's personalities."
Although opposed to these avant-garde "antics," Hawthorne took part in the Beachcombers, a low-brow but charity-oriented artists' club, restricted to men, who met in a fish house called the Hulk. Yet when it came to aesthetics, Hawthorne stuck vigorously to his realist guns — he had control of the Provincetown Art Association, and "virtually banned the modernists from exhibiting there," except for E. Ambrose Webster's faction (Jacobs, 1985, p. 178). Webster, Hawthorne's rival, had opened a school in 1900. At that time, his bright impressionist style and Fauve palette were shockingly progressive. Webster was considered a modernist: he exhibited at the Armory Show, studied under Gleizes in Paris in the early 1920s, and ended up in league with Demuth, Zorach, and Karl Knaths in the Provincetown Group Show in 1930. Still, he remained a representational artist and he and Hawthorne continued to be friendly rivals. In 1915, Hawthorne painted The Crew of the Philomena Manta (Town Hall, Provincetown), perhaps his masterpiece, which features a robust group of Portuguese fishermen hauling in the day's catch. Around the same time, his student Edwin Dickinson (1891-1978) was executing his dynamic Interior (Private collection). Hawthorne died before abstract painter Hans Hofmann established his own Provincetown school. Ironically, the latter occupied Hawthorne's house and studio beginning in 1935.
Critics admired Hawthorne's technique and the sense of life that his paintings embodied. Anna Seaton-Schmidt (1913, p. 824) appreciated the way in which his portraits conveyed universal images of humanity. At the same time, the Portuguese fishing folk, often used as Hawthorne's sitters, are superb portraits that reveal the sitter's inner spiritual essence: "the poetry that underlies all human life." A few years later, Duncan Phillips (1917, p. xx) equally stressed Hawthorne's "sympathetic insight into character," but pointed out some of his faults: waxy flesh tones, a lack of contrasting textures, and simplistic modeling. A few critics, for instance, Henry McBride, had no appreciation at all for Hawthorne's works. Phillips, however (1917, p. xxiv), could forecast a bright future for Hawthorne: "He is a young man of the adventurous breed, and new developments may be confidently expected." Leila Mechlin (1931) had the advantage of working with Hawthorne's entire oeuvre. She stressed his contributions as a teacher:
Hawthorne encouraged virility and urged upon his students the importance of direct expression — taught them to differentiate between color and tone and to re-create the illusion of light without employing the impressionists' formula. In this sense he was a modernist, but he was never willing to go the length (p. 96). The "spiritual quality, this insight into character" and his imagination placed Hawthorne "on a higher level that the majority" of painters" (p. 102).
What makes Hawthorne's portraits so strong and compelling is the conveying of character and personality, combined with the classical grandeur associated with Italian art, and an engaging Yankee realism, partly inspired by Thomas Eakins. The sitters are often shown frontally and they make direct eye contact with the viewer. Certain group portraits recall those of the Dutch masters, while others, such as Three Women of Provincetown (ca. 1924; Mead Art Museum, Amherst College) have a primitive isocephalism and a collective sanctimonious primness that seem to have inspired Grant Wood's Daughters of Revolution, painted six years later. For Annette Stott (1998, pp. 74-76), this painting resembles The Regentesses of the Old Men's Almshouse by Frans Hals, which Hawthorne had mentioned specifically (Hawthorne to Ethel Marion Campbell, 29 June 1898).
Although Hawthorne advised students to treat the figure as a still-life element, he rarely did this in his own works. His figures are far from lifeless objects set into a formalist scheme. In stressing direct observation of nature over learning from the old masters, Hawthorne placed personal creativity at the highest rank. Perhaps he assumed that once students mastered the basic skills, they would perfect their art by analyzing and experiencing Rembrandt, Titian, Leonardo, and Giorgione — those painters who exercised such a profound influence on his art, beyond technique. Like many American impressionists, Hawthorne took only the elements from the impressionist aesthetic that he wanted. One of America's greatest artists, Hawthorne was acknowledged by another great teacher, Hans Hofmann (in Hawthorne on Painting, 1938, p. viii), as a "robust and provocative" painter with "an abundant, vigorous mind, of a cataclysmic temperament." Hofmann saw Hawthorne as an American individualist, in the tradition of Whistler and Ryder. Add to this Renaissance monumentality a heavy dose of Chase's dashing technique, an almost Ash Can preoccupation with finding beauty in the ordinary, the ugly, and the commonplace, and an inflexible aspiration toward creative originality, and you will have defined Hawthorne's art.
Bowles, J. M. "Charles W. Hawthorne - Artist." Brush and Pencil 15 (April 1905): 227-235; Hartmann, Sadakichi. "Studio Talk." International Studio 26 (July 1905): 261-264; Hoeber, Arthur Burnet. "Charles W. Hawthorne." International Studio 37 (May 1909): LXI-LXXII; Seaton-Schmidt, Anna. "Charles W. Hawthorne." Art and Progress 4 (January 1913): 821-825; Phillips, Duncan. "Charles W. Hawthorne." International Studio 61 (March 1917): XIX-XXIV; Mechlin, Leila. "Charles W. Hawthorne, 1872-1930." American Magazine of Art 23 (August 1931): 91-104; Hawthorne on Painting . New York: Dover Publications, 1960; McCausland, Elizabeth. Charles W. Hawthorne: An American Figure Painter. New York: American Artists Group, 1947; Murchison, Carl. Charles W. Hawthorne, 1872-1930. Exh. cat. Provincetown Art Association, 1952; Richardson, Edgar P. Hawthorne Retrospective. Exh. cat. Provincetown Art Association, 1961; Sadik, The Paintings of Charles W. Hawthorne. Exh. cat. Storrs, CT: University of Connecticut Museum of Art, 1968; Idem, Charles Hawthorne 1872-1930. Exh. cat. New York: Hirschl and Adler Galleries, Inc., 1972; Mandel, Patricia C. Selection VII: American Paintings from the Museum's Collection, c. 1800-1930. Providence, RI: Rhode Island School of Design, 1977, pp. 132-134; Seckler, Dorothy Gees. Provincetown Painters 1890s - 1970s. Syracuse, NY: Everson Museum of Art, 1977; Flint, Janet. Charles W. Hawthorne: The Late Watercolors. Exh. cat. Washington, DC: National Museum of American Art, 1983; Quick, Michael. Artists by Themselves: Artists' Portraits from the National Academy of Design. New York: NAD, 1983, pp. 80, 83; Gerdts, Abigail Booth. An American Collection: Paintings and Sculpture from the National Academy of Design. Exh. cat. New York: NAD, 1990, pp. 102-105; Strazdes, Diana et al. American Paintings and Sculpture to 1945 in the Carnegie Museum of Art. New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1992, pp. 238-239; Weinberg, H. Barbara, Doreen Bolger, and David Park Curry. American Impressionism and Realism: The Painting of Modern Life, 1885-1915. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1994, pp. 229-231, 350-351; Stott, Annette. Holland Mania: The Unknown Dutch Period in American Art and Culture. Woodstock, NY: The Overlook Press, 1998, pp. 74-76; Mühlberger, Richard. Charles Webster Hawthorne. Chesterfield, MA: Chameleon Books, 1999; Nickerson, Cindy. "A Century of Impressionism on Cape Cod." American Art Review 11 (July-August 1999): 166-175; Picturing Old New England: Image and Memory. Ed. William H. Truettner and Roger B. Stein. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999, pp. 158-159, 212.
Submitted by Richard H. Love and Michael Preston Worley, Ph.D
Raised in Richmond, Maine near the Kennebec River, Charles Hawthorne became known as the leading influence in the Provincetown, Massachusetts art colony in the early part of the 20th century. His father was a sea captain, and Charles developed an early interest in marine subjects and respect for the hard lives of those whose lives centered around them.
Biography from Julie Heller Gallery
He went to New York in 1890 at age 18 and worked days in a stain-glass factory and studied at night at the Art Students League with Vincent DuMond and George De Forest Brush.
In 1896 he attended the Shinnecock Summer School and studied with William Merritt Chase. The following year he became Chase's assistant. He helped found the Chase School, which became the New York School of Art, and he taught there and managed it for several years. It is believed that this is where Hawthorne met his future wife, Ethel M.Campbell who worked as a secretary at the school.
Hawthorne spent a year in Holland in1898 where he was influenced by the tonalist style of Franz Hals. The next year he went to Provincetown, Massachusetts, an unspoiled fishing village and was inspired to open his own school of art. In 1899, he established the Cape Cod School of Art patterned after the Chase School and attracted other painters such as John Noble, Richard Miller and Max Bohm to Provincetown. He taught the tenets of Impressionism and plein air painting along with his own color theories. Like his mentor, Chase, he conveyed a love of teaching with a love of painting landscapes that infused outdoor light with a wide range of color.
His paintings there of Portuguese fishing families and other realistic and impressionist work brought him many prizes and also many student followers. He was a much loved teacher and was known for marching his students down to the water in glaring sun and makes them paint models with a two-inch putty knife. The results were called "mud-heads" because the figures looked like blobs--simple masses of reflecting color. In this way, he taught his theory of capturing patterns of light and dark before the details. The students were forced to concentrate on, "the mechanics of putting one spot of color next to another-the fundamental thing" (quote from Hawthorne).
During his lifetime, he got much recognition including the Hallgarten prize from the National Academy of Design in 1904 and awards from The Art Institute of Chicago and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Among his affiliations were the Salmagundi Club and the American Watercolor Society. In addition to his year in Holland , Hawthorne traveled to Paris and Italy during his career and was made a full member of the French Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1913.
By 1916 the historic fishing village of Provincetown had become the largest art colony in the world luring such artists as George Ault, Gifford Beal, Reynolds Beal, Henry Demuth, Childe Hassam, Ernest Lawson, Ellen Ravenscroft, Ben Shahn, Agnes Weinrich, and William Zorach to its shores. According to historian Ronald A. Kuchta, " Provincetown is the origin of many famous paintings in the history of the twentieth-century American art, not only the place where they were painted, but where they were first exhibited, discussed and sold."
Under thirty years of Hawthorne's guidance, the Cape Cod School of Art was the first outdoor summer school for figure painting and grew into one of the nation's leading art schools. There, Hawthorne gave weekly criticisms and instructive talks, guiding his pupils and setting up ideals but never imposing his own technique or method.
Although Hawthorne is considered more of a realist, he managed to keep Monet's style and the flame of Impressionism going into the twentieth century when others abandoned his style, and he extended Impressionism to become somewhat structural in teaching his students to "differentiate between color and tone and to re-create the illusion of light without employing the Impressionist's formula."
In reflecting on Hawthorne 's career, writer Duncan Phillips said Hawthorne was regarded as "both a great teacher and a great painter." Critic Leile Mechlin said, "There are those who believe, and with reason, that Hawthorne 's largest contribution to art in America was through the medium of his teaching." This grand appreciation of Hawthorne 's teachings by his peers and students and his aversion to self-promotion gave him the reputation of being a painter's painter.
The Hawthorne principle of teaching stimulated his school. Stephen Gilman wrote, "We came to Provincetown conceited, hoping to get a finishing course, and were literally dragged back to consider matters so elementary and so fundamental we had all forgotten the little we ever knew of them."
"This deliberate insistence of fundamentals was the thing that marked Charles Hawthorne as a great teacher," Gilman continued. "A lesser man would have been tempted to show off. A lesser man would have succumbed to the questions about trifling things. A lesser man would have wandered into verbal bypaths. But he was strong because of his simplicity. He was strong because he had the courage to repeat over and over again his fundamental concept of art, knowing full well that should his hearers once understand his meaning they would never be able to forget it."
"I am not surprised to find in the vanguard of today's movements, painters who still appreciate the privilege of having been his students. Knowing Hawthorne only from his painting - knowing from them what a great painter he is - I feel that he must have been also an inspiring and challenging teacher. However, personality, character, talent, sensitivity and endurance are inborn. They cannot be given . . . . The master and tutor is no more. Yet he has succeeded in endowing his work with what I may be permitted to call the eternal aurore de la vie." (Hans Hofmann, 1952)
Hawthorne had the enviable situation as an artist of being appreciated while he still lived by his fellow artists and by the general public. Early in his career, museums across the country collected his works including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Detroit Institute of Art, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art.
Outer Cape Auctions, www.outercapeartauctions
Joseph Hawthorne (essay), "Hawthorne on Painting" by Mrs. Charles W Hawthorne
Hans Hofmann (essay), "Hawthorne-The Painter, An Appreciation" 1952, Introduction to "Hawthorne on Painting" by Mrs. Charles W Hawthorne.
CHARLES WEBSTER HAWTHORNE (1872-1930)
Biography from The Caldwell Gallery
At the turn of the last century, Impressionism was responsible for radically changing not only what Americans were collecting but also the academic approach to how painting was taught. Some one hundred years later, it is difficult to believe that Impressionism -- Claude Monet's beautiful mixture of light and color -- would ever have been controversial.
American Impressionism at the end of the nineteenth century was led by William Merritt Chase whose summer teachings at Shinnecock and studio classes at the Arts Students League were legendary for training many of this country's finest painters. Chase was admired for the beauty of his paintings as well as his success in passing his knowledge of painting and the technique of painting onto his students.
At the height of Chase's teaching of Impressionism, Charles Webster Hawthorne arrived in New York City in 1894 at the age of 22 and enrolled in the Art Students League as a night student while working days to support his dream of becoming a painter. Hawthorne began studying under Chase in 1896 and experienced out-of-doors painting classes at Chase's summer school at Shinnecock that same year.
After a brief stint as Chase's assistant, Hawthorne traveled to Holland in 1898, where he was influenced by the tonal style of Franz Hals. That year abroad inspired Hawthorne to return to the United States and open his own school, the Cape Cod School of Art in Provincetown, Massachusetts, which would teach Chase's en plein air style of infusing outdoor light with a wide color range. Perhaps more importantly, Hawthorne replicated Chase's enthusiasm for teaching as he passed down the traditions which Chase had passed to him. While Chase was the more cosmopolitan and gregarious of the two, both men were somewhat self-made as artists and both were drawn to color and the richness of oil paint as a medium.
Charles Hawthorne was never a New York insider, and it is rumored that Robert Henri rejected Hawthorne from The Eight. Hawthorne was content with a simple life of painting and he was devoted to a friendly style of teaching which attracted students to his school in the small fishing village of Provincetown. Students learned from Hawthorne not only how to paint but also how "to see and feel their subjects." He would often tell his pupils, "Anything under the sun is beautiful if you have the vision -- it is the seeing of the thing that makes it so."
Hawthorne's fascination at the beauty of his Cape Cod surroundings was influential in his early works, but more importantly the area increased his desire to paint the people who worked and fished in the area. The study of the figure, reflected in the harsh, brutal realistic paintings of Portuguese fishing families along the Cape, was his first love. In his figures, he was noted for the placement of the head and the gaze emanating from his subjects. Even in subjects that were not pleasing to the eye, he saw beauty and, in painting that spirit of beauty, Hawthorne excelled, and won numerous prizes including awards from the National Academy of Design, Art Institute of Chicago, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art.
In addition to his year in Holland, Hawthorne traveled to Paris and Italy during his career and was made a full member of the French Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1913. By 1916 the historic fishing village of Provincetown had become the largest art colony in the world luring such artists as George Ault, Gifford Beal, Reynolds Beal, Henry Demuth, Childe Hassam, Ernest Lawson, Ellen Ravenscroft, Ben Shahn, Agnes Weinrich, and William Zorach to its shores. According to historian Ronald A. Kuchta, "Provincetown is the origin of many famous paintings in the history of the twentieth-century American art, not only the place where they were painted, but where they were first exhibited, discussed and sold."
The Cape Cod School of Art was the first outdoor summer school for figure painting and grew into one of the nation's leading art schools. Under thirty years of Hawthorne's guidance, the school attracted some of the most talented art instructors and students in the country including John Noble, Richard Miller, and Max Bohm. At his school, Hawthorne gave weekly criticisms and instructive talks, guiding his pupils and setting up ideals but never imposing his own technique or method. Although Hawthorne is considered more of a realist, he managed to keep Monet's style and the flame of Impressionism going into the twentieth century when others abandoned his style, and he extended Impressionism to become somewhat structural in teaching his students to "differentiate between color and tone and to re-create the illusion of light without employing the Impressionists's formula."
In reflecting on Hawthorne's career, writer Duncan Phillips said Hawthorne was regarded as "both a great teacher and a great painter." Critic Leile Mechlin said, "There are those who believe, and with reason, that Hawthorne's largest contribution to art in America was through the medium of his teaching." This grand appreciation of Hawthorne's teachings by his peers and students and his aversion to self-promotion gave him the reputation of being a painter's painter. The Hawthorne principle of teaching stimulated his school. Stephen Gilman wrote, "We came to Provincetown conceited, hoping to get a finishing course, and were literally dragged back to consider matters so elementary and so fundamental we had all forgotten the little we ever knew of them." This deliberate insistence of fundamentals was the thing that marked Charles Hawthorne as a great teacher," Gilman continued. "A lesser man would have been tempted to show off. A lesser man would have succumbed to the questions about trifling things. A lesser man would have wandered into verbal bypaths. But he was strong because of his simplicity. He was strong because he had the courage to repeat over and over again his fundamental concept of art, knowing full well that should his hearers once understand his meaning they would never be able to forget it."
Hawthorne had the enviable situation as an artist of being appreciated while he still lived by his fellow artists and by the general public. Early in his career, museums across the country collected his works including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Detroit Institute of Art, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art. The leader of the Provincetown, Mass, artists' colony, Charles Webster Hawthorne, was one of America's most dynamic, penetrating, and forthright painters. Many remember him as a creative, inspiring teacher.
Resource Library Magazine
Charles Webster Hawthorne, born in 1872, studied at the National Academy of Design, Art Students League and Shinnecock Summer Art School with William Chase. Hawthorne was a specialist in portraits and genre paintings and set up a colony of artists in Provincetown, MA. Painters came to his Cape Cod School of Art, founded in 1899, of which he was the director until death.
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Hawthorne was a naturalist painter with an Impressionistic style, staying within the academic traditions that other Modernists rejected. It was several years before Hawthorne's harsh treatment of struggling lifestyles was critically accepted. In 1898, he went to Holland and was influenced by the tonal style of Franz Hals. Hawthorne also painted introspective portraits of women and children with molded, conservative style.
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