Framing Charles W. Bartlett

This is a woodblock print, “Entrance to Golden Temple, Amritsar,” dated 1919, by the fascinating British artist Charles William Bartlett (1860-1940).

Charles W Bartlett self portrait

Charles W. Bartlett self-portrait, 1933

I took advantage here of the natural affinity between the picture and the frame—an affinity with respect to both the subject matter and the medium. The architecture of the frame, in particular the shaping of its corners, found inspiration in the architecture of the pictured Golden Temple; while the technique of the woodblock print suggested the fine carved line. The natural color of the walnut, which I simply oiled, matched the brown of the trunk of the tree at the center of the print, and I used a complementary blue milk paint to color the carved line.

Framed Charles Bartlett print

Charles W. Bartlett, “Entrance to Golden Temple, Amritsar,” 1919. Woodblock, 10-1/4″ x 15″.

It was probably Frank Brangwyn, a good friend of his, who turned Bartlett on to Japanese woodblocks. But not until Bartlett and his wife Catherine Main set out on an extensive tour of the East did he fully delve into the art form. In Wikipedia’s telling,

1880 photo of Golden Temple at Amritsar

1880 photo of the Golden Temple at Amritsar (Geo. Craddock, Wikimedia Commons)

In 1913, with financial backing from his wife’s well-to-do family, the Bartletts traveled to India, Ceylon, Indonesia, China, and Japan. He arrived in Japan in 1915, where he met woodblock print publisher Watanabe Shōzaburō (1885–1962), who was a major force in early 20th-century Japanese art (shin-hanga). In 1916 Watanabe published 21 woodblocks from Bartlett’s designs, including six prints of Japanese landscapes. In 1917, Bartlett and his second wife left Japan for England; however, they stopped off in Hawaii, where they remained—never returning to England. He did visit Japan in 1919, where he created sixteen shin-hanga prints for Watanabe.

The Golden Temple at Amritsar is the most important site in the Sikh religion. According to Wikipedia, “The Golden Temple is an open house of worship for all people, from all walks of life and faiths… The four entrances to the gurudwara symbolise the Sikh belief in equality and the Sikh view that all people are welcome into their holy place.”

Charles W. Bartlett’s “Entrance to Golden Temple, Amritsar” is available from California Historical Design.

More of Bartlett’s woodblock prints can be viewed on Wikimedia Commons.

Framed Charles Bartlett print

« Back to Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *