National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Kurt Delbanco
Bertram Hartman 1882-1960
Kansas-born artist Bertram Hartman, posing with arch solemnity in a studio littered with cats and portfolios, was once well known in the artistic circles of New York and Paris. A close friend of writer Ernest Hemingway and artists John Marin, Gaston Lachaise, and William and Marguerite Zorach, Hartman exhibited his oils and watercolors alongside works by prominent American modernists. Critics admired the multiple perspectives and cubist patterning of his landscapes and skyscrapers, and particularly liked his watercolors. "Forms, light, and patterns of color interplay in sweeping rhythms," one reviewer noted. Hartman used the same playful repetition of geometric shapes to animate this wry, attenuated self-portrait. The artist was also recognized for his batik textiles, book illustrations, stained glass, mosaics, and designs for rugs hooked by his wife. Ultimately his reputation suffered when he abandoned his decorative designs to focus exclusively on mural and easel painting.