Bo Bartlett’s “Promised Land” and other paintings are now on view at Dowling Walsh Gallery in Rockland.
For nearly three decades, artist Bo Bartlett has been celebrated as one of the best contemporary realist painters in America. Dividing his time between island homes and studios on both coasts, Bartlett creates distinctive, hauntingly beautiful paintings that reflect his deep appreciation for living close to nature, and his fascination with discovering the mysterious in the everyday.
Inspired by scenes and individuals from his personal life—including his frequent model and muse, his wife, artist Betsy Eby—Bartlett’s exquisitely drawn and crafted paintings reveal his rigorous academic training at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and under the tutelage of well-known portrait artist Nelson Shanks. Additional studies in fresco painting in Florence, Italy and in anatomy at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine inform his aesthetic practice. Perhaps most compelling, however, is recognition of Bartlett’s background as a filmmaker on his approach to painting and his development as an artist.
In 1986, Bartlett graduated from New York University’s film school and shortly thereafter was offered the job of making a documentary on the life and work of artist Andrew Wyeth. For the next five years, Bartlett spent nearly every day with Wyeth. “Making the film, Snow Hill,” he says, “gave me the opportunity to learn from Andrew. It allowed me the opportunity to learn why he painted, and to ask him what motivated him, and how he stayed motivated. The process of making the film opened a door to my own life and my own path.”
Cinematically composed and skillfully edited, Bartlett’s narrative paintings are often mysterious in their intention; they suggest rather than instruct. While he admires history painting on the grand scale of Benjamin West and John Singleton Copley, he eschews their didactic tone. Instead, he says, his objective “is striking the chord of mystery that is being grappled with.”
The gallery is located at 365 Main Street. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday and Monday by appointment. For more information, call (207) 596.0084.