Charles Webster Hawthorne (1872-1930) was an American painter and a noted teacher who founded the Cape Cod School of Art in 1899. He was born in Lodi, Illinois and his parents returned to Maine, raising him in the state where Charles' father was born. At age 18, he went to New York, working as an office-boy by day in a stained-glass factory in New York, and studying at night school and with Henry Siddons Mowbray and William Merritt Chase, and abroad in both Holland and Italy.
He studied painting under several notable artists at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League. Among his teachers were Frank Vincent DuMond and George de Forest Brush. But Hawthorne declared that the most dominant influence in his career was William Merritt Chase, with whom he worked as both a pupil and assistant. Both men were naturally talented teachers and figurative painters who were drawn to rich color and the lusciousness of oil paint as a medium. Chase passed on a Munich tradition of tone values and tone painting, and Hawthorne learned all he could.
While studying abroad in Holland as Chase's assistant, Hawthorne was influenced to start his own school of art. His winters were spent in Paris and New York City, his summers at Provincetown, Massachusetts, the site of his school. In addition to founding the Cape Cod School of Art, Hawthorne was also a founding member of the Provincetown Art Association established in 1914. While in Paris Hawthorne became a full member of the French Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1917.
The Cape Cod School of Art was the first outdoor summer school for figure painting and grew into one of the nation's leading art schools. Under thirty years of Hawthorne's guidance, the school attracted some of the most talented art instructors and students in the country including John Noble, Richard Miller, and Max Bohm. At his school, Hawthorne gave weekly criticisms and instructive talks, guiding his pupils and setting up ideals but never imposing his own technique or method.