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 John (Anthony) Hartell  (1902 - 1995)

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: mod figure, genre, illustrator

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Ad Code: 4
John (Anthony) Hartell
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following information was submitted in April of 2006 by Ben Rogers:

John Hartell was born in Brooklyn in 1902.  He received  a bachelors degree in architecture in 1925 from Cornell University and a fellowship for graduate study at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm.  He had been painting and drawing all along and continued to do so during the next forty years while teaching architecture at Clemson College and the University of Illinois and, after 1930, at Cornell where he taught art as well.  During that period he was commissioned to design a number of residences and worked with a NewYork architect on buildings for the World's Fair of 1939.  After his retirement from Cornell in 1968, he painted full time. Much of his imagery comes from the lakes and woods of upstate New York, where he lived, and from eastern Long Island which he knew as a boy.

Hartell's work has been exhibited nationally in museums and galleries since the 1940s.  His earliest paintings, labeled "American Objectivist" by ArtNews editor, Alfred M. Frankfurter in 1937, had a sturdy, constructed look reminiscent of the American regionalists and precisionists.  During the forties and fifties, the study of French modernists, cubists, and particularly Vuillard, directed his art toward a freer, less stylized approach.  By the late fifties, the figures had dissolved into the landscape as Hartell's work became increasingly abstract.

The paintings of the late fifties and sixties reduced landscape to its essential forms.  Land forms and reflections, which were put down without outline, were held together by soft horizon lines. Color became important, not in a literal way, but to create atmosphere and space while the subtle tonal variations produced a vibrating, shimmering surface.  A stay in Greece in the 1970s resulted in a series of paintings called Fragments, which refer to ancient architecture and archaeological sites, and the following series, Passage, both of which continue and develop his interest in that area.  His next series, Studio, was based on interiors and also reintroduced the figure into his work in such a  way that they became part of the space and part of  the experience which is transferred from artist to viewer.

The artist has said that his paintings are not of or about a specific site.  They are all executed in his studio without reference to sketches or models.  Hartell was very much concerned with color and light; how they reveal the material things in the space, whether it is a salt water landscape or a domestic interior. The figures that emerge may be engaged in casual activities, but the range of color and the shimmering quality of the light create an otherworldly effect.  They are intended to recreate a feeling or experience for the viewer and invite him to bring his own perceptions to the work.  Hartell attempts to give shape to those things which are least substantial: light, atmosphere and memory.

John Hartell died at his home in Ithaca, New York in 1995

Sources include:
Kraushaar Gallery Exhibition catalog
Washington County Museum of Fine Arts

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