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In painting our own, or others’ likeness the fundamental challenge is learning to see and simplify the major and minor color shapes that the head presents to our eyes, instead of just the details of eyelashes, nostrils and lips. We may wish, in painting the head, to reveal the inner being of our sitter, but that will never happen without careful attention to the outer form. The inner and the outer are inseparable. Charles Hawthorne, the celebrated teacher of Edwin Dickinson and Hans Hoffman, relates a story about painting the portrait of a bald man, becoming fascinated by the colors he observed in the man’s head, one color spot against another, and finding later that he had accurately captured the sitter’s likeness with hardly a conscious thought as to how he was doing that. Seeing is a kind of knowledge.
Charles Webster Hawthorne (Jan. 8, 1872 – Nov. 29, 1930); American portrait and genre painter and a noted teacher who founded the Cape Cod School of Art in 1899.
Born in Lodi, Illinois, and his parents returned to Maine, raising him in the state where Charles' father was born. At 18, he went to New York, working as an office-boy by day in a stained-glass factory and studying at night school and with Henry Siddons Mowbray and William Merritt Chase, and abroad in both the Netherlands and Italy. In 1908 he was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate member and became a full Academician in 1911.
...Among his teachers were Frank Vincent DuMond and George de Forest Brush. But Hawthorne declared that the most dominant influence in his career was William Merritt Chase, with whom he worked as both a pupil and assistant. Both men were naturally talented teachers and figurative painters who were drawn to rich color and the lusciousness of oil paint