Charles Hawthorne

American, 1872 - 1930

Charles W. Hawthorne, (1872-1930), a specialist in portraits and genre scenes and one of America's foremost native realists, was born in Lodi, Illinois, in 1872. He grew up in Richmond, Maine, where his father was the captain of a ship engaged in the New England coastal trade. During his teenage years, he worked as an ice cutter, spending much of his time among the seafaring people he would later depict in his paintings. At the age of eighteen, he decided to pursue a career as an artist. He received his initial art instruction at the Art Student's League in New York, where his teachers included Frank Vincent Du Mond, George de Forest Brush and H. Siddons Mowbray. In the summer of 1896, he attended William Merritt Chase's summer school at Shinnecock, Long Island. During the fall of that year, he helped Chase organize his New York school. He also served as Chase's assistant at Shinnecock in 1897.

Frequently described as a conservative painter, Hawthorne adhered to a solid, academic approach throughout his long and successful career. His careful, well-painted portraits of New England's rugged Yankee and Portuguese fisherfolk reflect the influence of both Hals and his former teacher and mentor, Chase. Although Hawthorne experimented with a modified form of Impressionism around 1910, he found the style, with its emphasis on light and color, unsuitable for the depiction of a hardy, often tragic seafolk who daily risked their lives at sea. Indeed, it is this overriding concern for naturalism that places Hawthorne within the forefront of American realist tradition.

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