Acquired directly from artist by Duncan Phillips, Washington, DC
Acquired at auction by William Macbeth Galleries, New York, New York, February 27, 1922
Acquired by Edwin C. Shaw, Akron, Ohio, 1922
Bequest to Akron Art Institute (Museum), 1955
2016 - : Haslinger galleries 11/8/2016 - , Akron Art Museum
2004 - 2006: "American Impressions: An Arcadian Vision: Paintings from the Akron Art Museum" Organized by the Trust for Museum Exhibitions and Akron Art Museum: Tour
4/8/04 - 6/6/04, The Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca Raton, Florida
9/17/04 - 11/28/04, University Art Museum, Lafayette, Louisiana
12/18/04 - 2/27/05, Appleton Museum of Art, Ocala, Florida
3/12/05 - 5/22/05, Fresno Metropolitan Museum, Fresno, California
6/4/05 - 9/5/05, The Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, New York
10/8/05 - 12/4/05, Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga, Tennessee
12/16/05 - 3/12/06, Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, Ohio
2003: "In a Romantic Mood: American Impressionists and Their Era" 6/14/03 - 8/24/03, Akron Art Museum
1997 - 1998: "A 75th Anniversary Celebration of the Collection" 11/15/97 - 1/11/98, Akron Art Museum
1996: "Akron's Own Rings: Five Passions in World Art" 6/22/96 - 8/11/96, Akron Art Museum
1995: "A Legacy of Beauty: Paintings and Prints from the Edwin C. Shaw Bequest" 6/17/95 - 8/27/95, Akron Art Museum
1989: "Turn-of-the-Century Paintings from the Permanent Collection" 2/17/89 - 8/13/89, Akron Art Museum
1986: "The Edwin C. Shaw Collection of American Impressionist and Tonalist Painting" 4/19/86 - 6/29/86, Akron Art Museum
1955: "The Edwin C. Shaw Collection of Paintings" 10/11/55 - 11/23/55, Akron Art Institute (Museum) (No. 19)
1925: "The First Loan Exhibition of Paintings: Assembled through the Courtesy of the Owners from The Homes of Akron" 11/17/25 - 12/7/25, Akron Art Institute, Public Library Building
1920: "The Duncan Phillips Collection" 6/20, Knoedler Galleries, New York, New York
1916: "An Exhibition of Paintings by Charles W. Hawthorne" Carnegie Institute (now known as the Carnegie Museum of Art), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (No. 9)
1915: "Panama-Pacific International Exposition" San Francisco, California (No. 3855)
1910: "An Exhibition of Paintings by Charles W. Hawthorne and Herman Dudley Murphy" 4/10-5/10, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philidelphia, Pennsylvania (No. 2)
1910: "Catalogue of Figure Paintings by Charles W. Hawthorne" 3/10, Macbeth Gallery, New York, New York (No. 1)
Signed LR: "C W Hawthorne"
Charles W. Hawthorne
Mother and Child, around 1908–9
Collection of the Akron Art Museum
Today the figure paintings of Charles Hawthorne seem predictably traditional, even to the point of being stilted and sentimental. Why then did the renowned abstract painter Hans Hofmann, a confirmed modernist, write a laudatory essay for a Hawthorne catalogue in 1952? The answer is that Charles Hawthorne, now almost forgotten, was once regarded as one of the country’s greatest art teachers.
Growing up near the Maine coast, Hawthorne moved to New York in 1890, performing manual labor by day and painting at night at the Art Students League. In 1896, he studied with William Merritt Chase (see pp. 62–63) and the following summer became his teaching assistant. After Chase closed his famed summer school on Long Island, Hawthorne established his own summer school in Provincetown, Massachusetts, in 1899. For three decades art students from across the country repaired there for summer instruction and camaraderie.
In Europe Hawthorne fell in love with the art of the old masters, in particular sixteenth-century Venetian painting and the atmospheric works of Titian. In Mother and Child, Titian’s influence is felt in the deep greens and moody brown of the background and especially in the carefully applied layers of glaze (an old master technique) that meld the colors, gently fusing the foreground and background into one sensuous surface of delicately modulated tones. Hawthorne commented that what collector Duncan Phillips termed the “lustrous mellow paste” of his surfaces may have come less from the old masters than [from] ‘Italy itself—the familiar look of it as I lived there day after day, the texture of the stone and of old fresco.’”1
Hawthorne’s devotion to the Italian Renaissance is clearly reflected in his choice of a wooden panel as the painting’s support rather than canvas, which supplanted panel as the choice of artists in the seventeenth century. Equally indebted to the old masters is the subject of mother and child, which directly recalls the myriad versions of the Madonna and child that pervade Renaissance and Baroque art. The artist consciously thought of himself as an heir to those traditions, which he hoped to modernize by portraying the inhabitants of his beloved New England.
The fishermen of Cape Cod and their families were Hawthorne's most frequent subjects, but after 1908, when his only child, Joseph, was born, images of mother and child became common. This theme allowed the artist to combine an emotional, personal subject with a motif central to the history of Western painting. He decided to paint the clothing with few details, resulting in timeless images at once ancient and modern. Although the museum’s painting depicts the artist’s wife and son, it is less a portrait than a symbol of the sanctity of motherhood.2 In fact, the words “Motherhood,” “Adoration,” and “Madonna” appear frequently in the titles of similar paintings by Hawthorne.
The artist's goal was not to repeat the old masters but to use their lessons to “express something about the humanity of my time that will live.”3 While there is a lack of emotional variety in Hawthorne’s pensive figures, his sincerity is irreproachable. The painter, Hawthorne wrote, “must show people more—more than they already see, and he must show them with so much human sympathy and understanding that they will recognize it was as if they themselves had seen the beauty and the glory.”4
- Mitchell D. Kahan, 2001
1. Quoted in Duncan Phillips, “Charles W. Hawthorne,” International Studio (March 1917): 20, 22.
2. The sitters were identified in a letter from Richard Mühlberger to Barbara Tannenbaum, June 27, 2000. Hawthorne’s wife, Ethel Marion Campbell, was a painter. While continuing her own career as an artist, she also helped her husband in his professional endeavors.
3. Letter from Charles Hawthorne to his dealer, William Macbeth, February 20, 1914, quoted in Sadik essay in University of Connecticut Museum of Art, not paginated.
4. Hawthorne in Hawthorne on Painting, 17.
Hawthorne on Painting, From Students’ Notes Collected by Mrs. Charles W. Hawthorne. With an appreciation by Royal Cortissoz. 1938. Reprint, with an introduction by Edwin Dickinson and an appreciation by Hans Hofmann, New York: Dover Publications, 1960.
McCausland, Elizabeth Charles W. Hawthorne, An American Figure Painter. New York: American Artists Group, 1947.
Mühlberger, Richard. Charles Webster Hawthorne. Chesterfield, Mass.: Chameleon Books, 1999.
University of Connecticut Museum of Art, Storrs. The Paintings of Charles Hawthorne. With an introduction by Marvin S. Sadik. Storrs: University of Connecticut Museum of Art, 1968.