The exhibition presents large-scale oil paintings that are figurative, psychologically imbued, beautifully rendered, and wonderfully sublime by one of the most significant Realist painters of his generation. Bo Bartlett is an American realist with a modernist vision whose multi-layered narrative work falls within the tradition of American realism as defined by artists such as Thomas Eakins and Winslow Homer to Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth. Like these artists, Bartlett looks at America's land and people to describe the beauty he finds in everyday life. His paintings celebrate the underlying epic nature of the commonplace and the personal significance of the extraordinary. Of Bartlett’s work, Wyeth wrote, “Bo Bartlett is very American. He is fresh, he’s gifted, and he’s what we need in this country. Bo is one of the very few I feel this strongly about.”
Bartlett was educated at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where realist principles must be grasped before modernist ventures are encouraged. He pushes the boundaries of the realist tradition with his multilayered imagery―accessible and complex at once. Life, death, transformation, memory, and confrontation coexist easily in his world. Family and friends are the cast of characters who appear in his otherworldly narrative works. Museum director and Columbus, Georgia native states: “Although the scenes are set around Bartlett’s childhood home in Georgia, his island summer home in Maine, his home in Pennsylvania or the surroundings of his studio and residence in Washington State, they represent a deeper, mythical concept of the archetypal, universal home” His work can be found in private collections, public collections, and galleries throughout the United States. These include the Greenville County Museum of Art, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
Bo Bartlett: American Artist is organized by The Mennello Museum of American Art and curated by Shannon Fitzgerald, Executive Director, The Mennello Museum of American Art and Public Art, City of Orlando. It is organized in conjunction with The Orlando Museum of Art’s presentation of the exhibition The Wyeths and American Artists in Maine: Selections from the Farnsworth Art Museum. This occasion provides the opportunity to follow a distinctive American art history, an artistic legacy and trajectory that continues, and one that is so compelling in Bartlett’s astonishing oeuvre. This connective examination yields the rare opportunity to position a contemporary artists’ work in the context of his predecessors and peers working in the long-standing tradition of American realism. Bo Bartlett keeps realism relevant and narrative enthralling in contemporary art discourse.