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An accomplished painter and illustrator, Charles Hargens was renowned for his scenes of the Old West. Born in 1893 and growing up in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Hargens worked from first-hand knowledge of western life. His oil paintings were painstaking in every detail, realistically capturing the era. "I want to depict that human element and what happens to these people," he said.
Many of his paintings were commissioned for book covers and illustrations, and he worked for the MacMillan and Doubleday publishing houses, among others. By no means limited to western art, Hargens designed the cover for Pearl S. Buck's book, Portrait of a Marriage, as well as covers for the Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, Liberty, Country Gentleman, and Boy's Life. He also designed posters for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for 10 years.
In 1947, Hargens was recruited to act as scoutmaster to Troop 64, a scout troop in Carversville, in which he participated until 1980. In 1981, he received the Community Service Award for Excellence in Art from the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce. In 1982, Hargens received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Dakota Wesleyan University, Mitchell, South Dakota. In 1993, the James A. Michener Art Museum honored Hargens with a special exhibition of his work to celebrate his 100th birthday. Hargens lived to be 103 years of age.
Charles Hargen. Photo by Jack Rosen.
Education and Training
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1913-1920
Ecole des Beaux Arts, Paris, France, 1915
Carlossi Art School, Paris, France, 1915
Academie Julien, Paris, France, 1915
Teachers and Influences
At the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts: Daniel Garber, Hugh Breckenridge, Henry McCarter, William Merritt Chase
Hargens was also influenced by Bucks County painter Harry Rand, who held painting classes in a barn on Ash Mill Road next to George Sotter's stained glass studio.
Connection to Bucks County
Charles Hargens and his wife, Marjorie Garmon Hargens, moved to a small farm in Carversville in 1940. She was a fashion designer and illustrator for Vogue and Vanity Fair. After her death in 1979, Charles Hargens continued to live in Carversville until his death in 1997.
Colleagues and Affiliations
Weekend visits with Daniel Garber were most likely a catalyst for Hargens' move to Carversville. Another local colleague was William A. Smith, an artist-illustrator from Pineville, who designed the United States postage stamps of the Boston Tea Party.
Lloyd (Bill) Ney and Stanley Reckless (Zbytniewski), who started the Los Angeles Art Center School of Design, were also considered friends and colleagues. Hargens used many local people as models.
Hargens was associated with Boy Scout Troop 64 of Carversville. He was its first troop committee chairman when it was established in 1945. In 1994, he authorized the troop to reproduce his painting Chief Joseph White Bull in a signed and numbered limited addition, and in 1995 he did the same for The Lamplighter. Hargens was one of the founding members of the Upstairs Gallery, originally in New Hope and now in Lahaska, at Peddler's Village. In 1993, the Michener Art Museum honored Hargens with an exhibition to celebrate his 100th birthday.
Major Solo Exhibitions
Rodman House, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 1983
Pennswood Art Gallery, Newtown, February, 1984
Upstairs Gallery, Lahaska, Pennsylvania, 1990, 1991
Celebrate 100th: Charles Hargens, Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 1993
Major Group Exhibitions
Bucks Fever '86, Artists' Studio Tour, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 1986
Three Bucks County Masters (Bucks Fever '89), Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce, Doylestown, 1989
Charles Hargens: American Illustrator, Michener Art Museum, New Hope, Pennsylvania, 2007-08
An Evolving Legacy: Twenty Years of Collecting at the James A. Michener Art Museum, Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 2009-2010
Whitney Museum, Cody, Wyoming
Sons of the Middle Border, Museum and Gallery, Mitchell, South Dakota
Two large murals for the Bucks County Council Boy Scouts: Washington Crossing the Delaware (in Council Office) and William Penn Sailing up the Delaware, which won the prestigious Silver Beaver award.
Cover, Saturday Evening Post, 1936: Chief Joseph White Bull
Represented in the 1985 Conservancy Calendar, Doylestown, Pennsylvania
Teaching and Professional Appointments
Teacher, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1947
Cresson Scholarship for European Travel, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1915
Thouron Prizes, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1915, 1917
Toppan (Honorable Mention), Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1918
Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce, Art Achievement Award, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 1981
Affiliations and Memberships
National Cowboy Hall of Fame
Society of Illustrators
Philadelphia Sketch Club
Honorary Degree, Doctor of Fine Arts, Wesleyan University, Mitchell, South Dakota, 1982