Bertram Hartman was an American modernist painter and illustrator as well as a designer of batik and mosaics. He was born on April 18, 1882 in Junction City, Kansas. He was a student at the Art Institute of Chicago and later traveled to Europe to enroll in the Royal Academy in Munich in 1911 and then at the Royal Academy in Paris. He began his artistic career by painting scenes from the book "Robin Hood" on the walls of a hotel in his birth place of Junction City. He did illustrations for a publication known as The Judge, a magazine formed in 1881 by the artists James Albert Wales, Frank Tousey, and George H Jessop who had seceded from another magazine The Puck. He also did illustrations for The Dial, a transcendentalist magazine founded in 1840, and for various books such as Louis Untermeyer's "Heavens". When he returned from Europe Hartman traveled to Arizona where he painted brightly colored views of Canyon de Chelly that reflected his exposure to the early modernist works of Fauvism. To support himself during the Depression Hartman worked for the WPA (Works Progress Administration) as well as for the FAP (Federal Arts Project) and under their auspices he painted six murals in Oneonta, New York for the Folks Tuberculosis Hospital as well as a mural for the United States Post Office in Dayton, Tennessee. From 1936 until 1937 he worked at the Annot Art School as an art teacher. Because of his financial hardships and ill health Hartman was unable to promote his work which went largely unnoticed or unknown during his lifetime as a result. Hartman died on July 9, 1960 in New York City where he had lived for many years and painted city views as well as polo scenes, landscapes, nude portraits, and floral still lifes.
In 1911 Bertram Hartman was enrolled in the Royal Academy in Munich, Germany. At this same time an avant-garde group of Russian and German painters including Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Alexej von Jawlensky, and August Macke formed an artistic alliance referred to as Der Blaue Reiter or Blue Rider. These artists attempted to explore the psychological effects of color and line in visually provocative, spontaneous, and daring abstract works as part of their search for spiritual truth. These works did not portray the visual realism or real world of the Impressionists but rather visions from the inner mind which included the use of symbols and dream imagery. The influence of this movement can be seen in Bertram Hartman's Exotic Fantasy. On the right hand of the canvas is a tall exaggerated and elongated figure of a blue woman. For Kandinsky blue was the color of spirituality: the darker the blue, the more it awakened the human desire for the eternal. Flying above are pink flamingoes that represent grace and poise. The leopard whose elongated body morphs into the head of a snake has a more sinister association with Satan, sin, and lust.
Spencer A. Samuels & Co., Ltd., New York
Christie’s, London, June 27, 1988, Important Symbolist Paintings & Drawings, lot 746
Berry-Hill Galleries, New York
Private Collection, acquired from the above, since 1994
New York, Spencer A. Samuels & Co., Ltd., Symbolists, 1970, no. 69, p. 37 illustrated
Berry-Hill Galleries, American Paintings VI, New York, 1990, pp. 152-153