Monday, July 27, 2009

Bo Bartlett's Young Life

Bo Bartlett's Young Life, 1994, oil on linen.
Collection of Robin and Michael Wilkinson.

Bo Bartlett is an American realist painter born 1955 in Columbus, Georgia. At 19, he travelled to Florence, Italy to study painting under Ben Long. He went on to apprentice under Nelson Shanks and to study in several American schools including Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, and University of the Arts, PA. A Certificate in Filmmaking from New York University in 1986 led him to work with Betty Wyeth on a documentary film, titled Snow Hill, about her husband, Andrew Wyeth, who became both mentor and friend to Bartlett.

As an introduction to the exhibition of six large Bo Bartlett canvasses from the collection of Sandy and Otis Scarborough opening August 1st on the fifth floor of the Ogden Museum, Bartlett's 1994 painting, Young Life, has been installed in the atrium of Goldring Hall. Young Life is on loan from local collectors, Robin and Michael Wilkinson. An interesting detail of this masterwork is the inclusion of a deer tail in the frame, and deer hair in the paint. A small insect and dandelion seed have also gained immortality through inclusion under the paint.

Writing about The Fatherland (Study for Young Life) in February of 1994, Bartlett says:

"I saw my sister's son in this shirt and cap. I asked him to pose with his girlfriend in front of my father's truck. As I took the photo, my youngest son Eliot ran into the picture. This is a study for a larger painting, Young Love or Young Life or something."
He goes on to list a few influences:

"The Home of the Brave, that photo of Lee Harvey Oswald, Rockwell. Young America by Wyeth. That flower selling group by Picasso in the Barnes. American Gothic, Bruce Springsteen."

All of these things and more, combined with childhood memories (first love, the light walking home frome school, newspaper clippings of men with their kill) have combined in the artist's mind to create this simple, elegant realist painting that to this writer, is a truly iconic Southern image.

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