Like many artists, Harley Bartlett began his early years with a keen interest in drawing. His Mother, and her parents, were amateur artists who encouraged this interest, and in the arts in general. His father was a good pianist and had a fine bass singing voice. And so it was that the family’s encouragement of art and culture made for a home environment that stimulated creativity. Adolescent success in art and athletics led to acceptance to the University of Pennsylvania, which despite itself had a reasonable program in art. Upon graduation the reality of the limited opportunities in the art world led to a job in his father’s field, which was in industrial sales. Interest in art continued despite employment in an unrelated sphere.
Ultimately, a weak economy resulted in a layoff which led to his applying and being accepted as a second year student at The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. There he was exposed to the teaching of Arthur DeCosta, who taught a basic academic approach to painting, which proved to be the foundation of his art. Despite having attended the Academy for only a year it proved to be seminal in his art education and direction in his career. The deep tradition of American at the Academy, from Peale to Eakins, gave him exposure to a rich art tradition that existed long before the advent of Modernism, which was now (mid 1980’s) winding down its dominance of the last half century.
A move to Boston led him to a living situation that exposed him to the world of the decorative arts. Despite having had some early success at a Newberry St. gallery, with his paintings, the need to generate a more steady income induced him to pursue work in the field of the decorative arts. Not long thereafter he met Jeffery Greene of Evergreene Painting Studios (now Evergreene Architectural Arts). Greene’s need for a figurative painter who understood the pragmatic nature of studio work led to employment over a period of time that provided, for all intents and purposes, an MFA equivalent in painting. Through this relationship Bartlett has painted his own and design by other artists in and on buildings such as; Bass Hall, Fort Worth, Texas, The Iowa State Capitol dome, Des Moines, Iowa, The Utah State Capitol dome, Salt Lake City, Utah, and many others. Through his employment with Greene he also met and became employed by the Artist Richard Haas. Although, he had never having painted on a scale that the large exterior Trompe l’oeil building murals demanded he, none the less, had success in executeing Haas’s designs on projects such as The Portland Historic Society, Portland, Oregon and 110 Merrimac St. Boston, Ma (featured in the Design Section of Time Magazine). His working with Haas gave him incentive to open his own studio in Rhode Island, where he not only continued Haas’s interior mural projects but he was soon creating murals for projects designed by Morris Nathanson Design (Pawtucket, RI), Niemitz Design Group (Boston) and Judd Brown Design (Pawtucket).
M. Stephen Doherty of the American Artist magazine wrote of Bartlett’s rising career in a 1993 article “Making all the right moves”. Demands of running an art business and managing eight artists forced him to ease away from the gallery business, although he continued to accept commissions and private sales. Steady growth in his mural and decorative painting business led to accounts such as The Capital Grille, Legal Seafood, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and many local churches and synagogues. His murals have been featured on the cover of Florida Architecture and Gentry magazines and have been inside Traditional Home, Interior Design, New York Magazine and Rhode Island Monthly. Indicative of his wide range of skills, he was recently selected to paint the Governor of Rhode Island’s official portrait.
Since 1999 Bartlett has reentered the New England gallery market and has steadily been increasing his exposure to fine art collectors. Primarily known as a landscape painter in the American Tradition he none the less continues to paint murals and decorative projects for select accounts.