Robert Hartman, “The Ordered World”, 2011. Colored Infrared Aerial Photography. Courtesy Gallery Anglim Gilbert.
Artist, teacher, pilot. Husband, father, grandfather, friend.
Always “incurably nuts about airplanes,” he first soloed after only 3 1/4 hours of instruction, and earned his license at the age of 21. A consummate pilot, and aerial photographer, his passengers were always in capable hands even as the horizon tilted towards vertical and Bob, controlling the plane with his feet and knees, pointed his camera straight down, through the open side window, capturing exquisite and perplexing images of the ground below.
For thirty years, Bob was a perceptive and inspiring professor of art at UC Berkeley. He retired in 1991, but remained close friends with many students and colleagues, and delighted in viewing latest works, discussing art or simply sharing one of his carefully crafted martinis.
Although he was trained in academic realist painting, Bob became excited by the dynamic energy of abstract expressionism, and the realization that a painting could be an ongoing event instead of a static tableau of things. However, his continuing desire to get back to flying soon led him to painting “skyscapes.” In 1970 he bought a plane and his painting shifted from looking up with longing, to looking down with wonder. Bob found that photography was the best medium for him to share that sense of wonder and discovery.
He had a painter’s eyes, a musician’s ears and a poet’s heart. All were active until the uncelebrated lungs finally failed. Left behind are beautiful images exploring the enigmatic and mysterious, and expressing the ineffable.
Bob felt he had lived an inordinately lucky life: lucky in surviving early and continuing lung problems, lucky in his escape from living and teaching in the racially segregated Texas of the 1950s, lucky in his career at UC Berkeley, and particularly lucky in wife, family, and friends.
Bob gives his friends and family a full life to celebrate, and a generous spirit to miss.
Bob’s “one and only love” and wife for 61 years, Charlotte, died in 2012. He is survived by his brother, Jim, two sons, Mark and Jim, their wives, four grandchildren, and many friends. We happy few count ourselves lucky to have known Bob.
A memorial celebration will coincide with a retrospective of his work planned for late February or early March.
In lieu of flowers, go to a symphony concert, or donate to Creative Growth.
On final flight into the wild blue yonder, flight plan not filed.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Dec. 11 to Dec. 13, 2015