Glenna Hartmann


glenna photo.jpg

May 25, 2008

Dear Oak Group and friends

I am so sorry to inform you that our good friend Glenna Hartmann died earlier tonight at Cottage Hospital where she had been since this past Thursday.

It is hard to conceive that she has left us. Her sweet spirit, rigorous mind, huge talent, positive attitude and unstinting hard work have always been an inspiration. The contribution that she has made to us is hard to calculate.

She loved and was loved by all of us. We were very lucky to have her as a friend.

I will inform you of any memorial plans.


The emails started pouring in as shock waves of the news traveled up and down the state where Glenna’s art and personality generated heart felt appreciation. Jean Stern, Executive Director of the Irvine Museum wrote: “Like the California art community, I am greatly saddened by the passing of Glenna Hartmann. I am offering to participate in any way I can to memorialize the life and career of this lovely woman and wonderful artist.”

Elaine Adams, Executive Director of the prestigious California Art Club wrote: “Peter and I are so upset to hear the news about Glenna Hartmann. She was such an incredible artist and a great human being. What a terrible loss to the art world!” Elisabeth Ptak, Director of Outreach for the Marin Agricultural Land Trust and coordinator of the Ranches and Rolling Hills art show wrote: “I was so sad to learn of Glenna's death, everyone here at MALT shares that sadness….

In your email, I think you've described Glenna perfectly. I would only add that I will miss her beautiful smile.”

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:

Its loveliness increases; it will never

Pass into nothingness; but still will keep

A bower quiet for us, and a sleep

Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

by John Keats

Born in Morristown, New Jersey in 1948, Glenna Hartmann first studied Mathematics and Physics at Wells College in New York, but answering the call of her adventurous spirit she transferred to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where she was awarded a Schiedt traveling scholarship for independent studies in Europe and mural painting school in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. When she moved to Carpinteria in the seventies her mural painting skills were put to use in the High School and at City Hall. For a period of time she concentrated in painting animal portraits in pastel and gradually moved to painting the landscape on location.

In her twenties she battled Hodgkin's lymphoma, which was one of the first cancers to be cured by radiation. After that her strong spirit willed her often-frail body to amazing feats of achievement. She and her former husband spent considerable time exploring Baja California. Their many whale encounters and experiences diving with dolphins inspired Glenna to paint numerous large paintings of marine mammals, including a collaboration with fellow Oak Group member John Iwerks on a mural for the remote Santa Barbara Island.

In 1987 Glenna was invited to join the fledgling Oak Group. She quickly became an indispensable force helping the group fly and then soar. She joined many other groups and participated in invitational trips that took her to the Forbes' Chateau de Balleroy in Normandy, a rafting trip in the Grand Canyon and to many other places, but her passion and commitment remained with the Oak Group and their causes. Of particular importance to her was the collaboration with the Nature Conservancy’s Santa Cruz Island project. She conceived the audacious idea of having a yearly art show on the island’s main ranch to benefit the island and its creatures.

Glenna enjoyed painting the historic ranchos and remote ranch lands of Santa Barbara and Marin counties, she also collaborated closely with her good friend Ellen Easton in the realization of a series of books published by the Easton Gallery. Many of Glenna’s painting adventures culminated in important shows and sometimes in national Art magazine articles.

Despite her many accomplishments and recognition she remained unassuming, warm and accessible. She was down to earth and enjoyed simple pleasures. Through the years she loved her many pets including the pair of geese that used to fly behind her as she ran down a hill behind her house. She also enjoyed reading Tony Hillerman and Sue Grafton novels. She loved to solve saduku puzzles and looked forward to her weekly outings to the movies with her beloved brother Robert.

Sometime in August of 2000, at a fundraising dinner for Direct Relief International, Ray Strong, the spiritual father of the Oak Group, was asked a simple question: “What do you like to paint?” Ray, who was 95 at the time, gave a one-word answer: “Air.” Then, after a pause, “like the precious air that is keeping the Russian sailors alive in their disabled nuclear submarine.”

Ray Strong often told this anecdote: Someone asked Rembrandt if he was the greatest painter in the world. With a sigh, he responded: “Alas, no, there is a Spaniard who can paint an empty room full of air.” This is why in Ray’s opinion Glenna was the most fully realized painter in California. He admired her ability to paint mountains and trees enveloped in air.

For the last few weeks of her life Glenna had been using an oxygen tank. Her lungs were rapidly failing. Now Glenna, the daughter of a scientist involved in the top secret American nuclear submarine project, has literally run out of air and gone to “paint the other side of the horizon” with Ray Strong who died two years ago at 101. Herself and her life “a thing of beauty”, she has left us in her paintings many things of beauty that will never pass into nothingness.

People touch our lives; some we love, some we take for granted, and some we hardly know. They are all important, interesting, and unique. Are we less, a little poorer when we lose them? I think not. Paradoxically I think the fullness of our love for them comes to the surface, sometimes from a depth we did not suspect. I think the blessing of our relationship remains, and if we allow it, it flowers in our painting, our music or our chosen mode of self-expression. In our loss there is an opportunity to realize that we are left enriched and inspired to contribute to those that we will eventually leave behind.