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Object of the Week: Mother and Child, by Charles Hawthorne

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Charles Hawthorne (1872-1930) grew up in Richmond, Maine, and moved to New York City in 1890 at the age of eighteen to pursue an art education. He attended classes at the Art Students League for several years, and in 1896, he enrolled in William Merritt Chase’s summer school at Shinnecock on Long Island, quickly becoming Chase’s favorite student and assistant. Hawthorne traveled abroad in 1898, and on his return to America in 1899, he founded his own summer art school in Provincetown, Massachusetts. The Cape Cod School of Art was one of the earliest outdoor schools of figure painting in the country and attracted generations of students to the small ocean-side community for decades under Hawthorne’s direction. He taught at the school every summer, demonstrating his plein air painting methods before crowds of students and onlookers. Although he taught both landscape and figural painting in Provincetown, Hawthorne was primarily known for his portrait paintings. Mother and Child depicts Hawthorne’s wife, Ethel Marion Campbell, and their only child, Joseph. The couple first met when they were both students at Chase’s summer art school, and they married in 1903. Joseph was born in 1908, and Hawthorne perhaps painted this portrait to commemorate his son’s birth. The Everson (then known as the Syracuse Museum of Fine Arts) purchased Mother and Child in 1911, the same year that Director Fernando Carter declared that the Museum would only collect work made by American artists. Purchasing such a newly painted canvas confirmed not only the Museum’s interest in American artists, but also its commitment to acquiring work from living artists, a major investment by any museum at the time. Nearly twenty years later, in April of 1930, Hawthorne visited Syracuse in order to sign his painting, which the Museum had purchased unsigned from a New York gallery. The Post-Standard published an article written by Assistant Director Anna Olmsted excitedly announcing the artist’s visit. Referring to the painting, Olmsted wrote,

“We are glad, indeed, that the illustrious name of Charles W. Hawthorne is at last firmly inscribed upon it.”

Joseph Hawthorne and Ron Kuchta posing before Mother and Child, September 21, 1982

In September of 1982, Joseph Hawthorne visited the Everson to view his father’s painting. The snapshot below shows Joseph, with Everson Director Ron Kuchta, posing beside his father’s work.

Mother and Child is on view in the exhibition A Look Inside The Handmaid’s Tale, through November 18, 2018.

-Emily Maar, Curatorial Intern and Steffi Chappell, Curatorial Assistant

Charles Hawthorne, Mother and Child, ca. 1908, oil on canvas, 39 x 39½ inches, Everson Museum of Art; Museum purchase, Friends of American Art Fund, 11.106