Charles Bittinger (1879-1970)

Charles Bittinger (1879-1970)

Although he produced broadly-painted, impressionist landscapes, New York-based artist Charles Bittinger is best remembered for his delicate, sumptuous paintings of interiors, generally peopled by elegantly-dressed young women. He was celebrated in Boston as a frequent exhibitor at the St. Botolph Club and the Guild of Boston Artists, as well as for his splendid interior view of the Boston Athenaeum, purchased by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1924.

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Born in Washington, DC, Bittinger formed his strong Boston connection beginning in 1898 when he studied painting under acclaimed Boston School artist Joseph DeCamp at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Like many young American painters, Bittinger soon went abroad to complete his education and enrolled in the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts as well as the Académies Delecluse and Colarossi in Paris. In 1907, he returned to the United States and settled in New York City, where he would also take classes at the Art Students League. Bittinger’s talents did not go unnoticed, and in 1912 he was elected an Associate of the National Academy of Design and won the prestigious Thomas B. Clarke prize at their annual exhibition. He would eventually become a full Academician and was also a regular exhibitor with the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Corcoran Gallery. Additional accolades earned during his lifetime include prizes from the Newport Art Association, the Duxbury Art Association and the Society of Washington Artists, as well as a bronze medal at the St. Louis Exposition in 1904 and a silver medal at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915. 

Always upholding his allegiance to Massachusetts, Bittinger became involved in the summer arts colony in Duxbury, a coastal village on the state’s South Shore, and became a founder of the Duxbury Art Association in 1917. In the same year, he joined the United States Navy and worked his way up to the rank of Captain, lending his artistic talents to the war effort by developing camouflage techniques for military ships. He moved permanently to the city of his birth, Washington, DC, in 1929, and continued to work as a professional artist before again answering the call to serve his country during World War II. Captain Bittinger became the Head of the Camouflage Section for the Bureau of Ships and was awarded the Legion of Merit in 1946.

References: See Andrew J. Casentino and Henry H. Glassie, The Capital Image Painters in Washington, D.C. 1800-1915, p. 253; Boston Public Library Artist Files; The Boston Evening Transcript, January 28, 1920. 

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