Parents

1984
Oil on linen
88 x 112

This painting of Bartlett’s parents, set in the interior of his childhood home, is an important early work in the artist’s oeuvre. Included are several references and quotations from art history, including the chandelier from Jan Van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Wedding Portrait, David Hockney’s portrait of his parents, and John Singer Sargent’s portrait of Robert Lewis Stevenson and his wife, Fanny. Bartlett engages the familiar trope of an active male and passive female found in all of these double portraits, going so far as to his mother with her eyes closed.

“Marriage and balance and imbalance in relationships between male and female is a recurring theme in my work. It has to do symbolically with the union of opposites, the yin/yang, the structural and generative. The male and female are employed to represent something else; even though [the subject] may on the surface be viewed as a couple or a husband and wife, [the painting] is about the struggle for balance in the universe as a whole.”