Frederic Bartlett had an art studio at every one of his residences. The Bonnet House Studio stands today much as it was in his time. Frederic’s art supplies and other working materials are on display. He painted in the Studio from 1921 until the early 1950s shortly before his death in 1953. The Studio was situated to take advantage of the light from the large north-facing window. It is not difficult to imagine Frederic at his easel, the fireplace crackling, and the scents of paint and turpentine in the air.
Frederic created most of the paintings that hang in this room. The exceptions are the Qajar painting over the fireplace and the painting of the fountain by the door, which was done by Evelyn Bartlett, who was also an artist. Many of the artifacts in the room—some religious—were collected during the Bartletts’ travels, and some served as inspiration for their paintings. The Bartletts weren’t particularly religious but had a passion for surrounding themselves with art and beauty.
Please direct your attention to the photographs on the two stand-alone exhibit panels.
After his study in Europe in the 1890s, Frederic Bartlett returned to Chicago and began his art career, making $65,000 his first year. He was commissioned to create murals and decorations in public buildings and private homes. Not only a fine muralist, Frederic did easel paintings as well.
Helen Birch Bartlett, Frederic’s wife died from cancer in 1925 just a few short years after Bonnet House was built. In the years before her death, Frederic and Helen had spent a great deal of time abroad where they assembled an impressive collection of art. Helen and Frederic's art collection was given to the Art Institute of Chicago in Helen's memory. This world-famous collection of post-impressionist works is known as the Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection. It includes works by Cézanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, Picasso, Rousseau, and Van Gogh. Perhaps one of the most famous paintings in their collection was Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat.
The Bartletts owned other properties including their mansion, Whitehall, in Beverly, Massachusetts, their farm, Bothways, in Essex, Massachusetts, and Nymphenglade, their weekend retreat in Davie, Florida. Their homes in the north were more formal in nature while Bonnet House was designed as a private winter retreat on the beach. Before leaving the Studio, note the faux balustrade facing the balcony railing. This a trompe l’oeil or fool the eye. Frederic Bartlett faux painted many areas in the house.
The charcoal drawings on the east wall were done early in his art career while Frederic was studying in Germany.
Exit the Studio and turn to your left.