Artifact Corner: WH Bartlett Landscape

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at a painting done sometime in the late 1830’s to early 1840’s. This is a pastoral scene of a saw mill and a log cabin. There are also some people seen down by the river, and a man walking a ox cart up a lane. You can also see some boats in the distance. This painting is attributed to the artist William Henry Bartlett, who was principally famous for his engravings. Let’s learn a bit more about this fascinating artist.

William Henry Bartlett was born on the 26th of March 1809 in Kentish Town (London), second son of William and Ann Bartlett. He was the son of middle-class parents, attended a boarding-school in London from 1816 to 1821 and in 1822 was apprenticed to the architect and antiquarian, John Britton, whose establishment in the parish of St Pancras (London) offered the boy an education that was both theoretical and practical. Bartlett studied and copied architectural drawings of the past and present and, with Britton, visited noted ruins in England from which he made detailed sketches to be engraved for some of Britton’s own publications. Bartlett continued to work for Britton as a journeyman after his apprenticeship ended in 1829, although he also provided sketches for other London publishers. On July 6th, 1831 he married Susanna Moon and thereafter his career was increasingly directed towards providing a livelihood for himself, his wife, and their five children. For the rest of his life Bartlett’s travels were extensive and continuous, and they led to illustrations for works on Syria, the Holy Land and Asia Minor, the Mediterranean coast, northern Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium, Scotland, Ireland, the coastal areas of Britain, the Bosphorus, the Danube, the United States, and Canada. Bartlett became an accomplished traveler.

William Henry Bartlett was both author and illustrator of numerous other works, including two books about the United States for which he undertook a fourth visit to North America in 1852. Although little is known about Bartlett’s itinerary in North America, a map in American scenery suggests that his travels during 1836–37 began in New York City and took him north to the White Mountains of N.H., west to Niagara Falls, N.Y., and south to Washington, D.C. His itinerary in the Canadas in 1838 and the observations he may have made also remain obscure because none of his letters from this period has been found. His route appears on a map in Canadian scenery illustrated: he seems to have traveled from Quebec City westward to Niagara Falls, and then by way of the Erie Canal to visit Willis at Owego, N.Y., before sailing for England in December 1838. No written record survives of Bartlett’s visit to the Maritimes. The dates of the engravings in Canadian scenery illustrated seem to indicate that he went there in 1841 after another visit to the United States. Bartlett’s biographer said of him that he was “a warm-hearted, sensitive, rather reserved Englishman who was devoted to his family and to a
small number of intimate friends.” Bartlett was returning from his last trip to the Near East when he suddenly took ill and died of fever on board the French steamer Egyptus o the coast of Malta in 1854. It’s likely he died of cholera. His wife Susanna survived her husband by almost 50 years, passing away in London in 1902.

This portrait is beautiful, but in need of some repairs. There are three holes in the painting, and it could definitely use a good cleaning. Regardless, it is a beautiful piece of artwork, and we are so lucky to have it in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by!

The following music was used for this media project:
Music: Sunny Morning by MusicLFiles
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License (CC BY 4.0):
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