School of Charm

Oil on linen
76 x 90

One of a trio of paintings from 2010, this work explores Bartlett’s childhood memories of attending Mabel Bailey’s School of Charm, which offered classes in poise and ballroom dancing. In some Southern households of the 1950’s, this instruction in good manners was more important than the lessons learned in the elementary school (seen through the large picture window), especially for girls. The work has been likened to a Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover, and the pig-tails, red hair, and mischievous smile of the central figure is reminiscent of the unrepentant figure in Rockwell’s Outside the Principal’s Office.

“The whole thing started with the political atmosphere of everything being so contentious in our society and people being so rude and not having manners anymore. I just remember that when I was growing up they would teach you these things. For whatever reason, it’s just “not cool” to teach these kinds of things now. It’s just considered so “old school.” But what a more civilized world we would have if we still taught that. I’m not saying that in an old fashioned way, I’m just saying that we don’t really respect one another and we don’t have manners the way we did in the past. There are surely very important things that we must give our attention, but there are also elements that make a culture civilized.”