Charles Ernest Harpt
Tryon, NC–Charles Ernest “Charlie” Harpt, renowned equestrian artist in the tradition of Norman Rockwell, died peacefully on Saturday, June 12, 2021 at LaurelWoods Memory Care in Columbus, North Carolina. He was 93.
Born September 4, 1927 in Philadelphia, PA, Charlie grew up during the Great Depression, the youngest of three children. He was quirky, humble, kind, generous, gentle and inquisitive—small in stature but huge in heart—and he was a lifelong bachelor.
From an early age, little Charlie was enraptured by the animals he saw in his working-class neighborhood, particularly the horses that pulled wagons of bread, milk and ice through the quiet streets each morning.
As he grew, Charlie combined his fascination for animals with a knack for drawing, starting with cartoons. His first drawings involved the simplest of tools: a piece of paper, a number 2 pencil and an eraser.
At age 18, Charlie and some friends saved enough money to rent horses for an afternoon. When his horse took off on a run, Charlie raised his fist enthusiastically and cried, “Charge!” The adventure ended abruptly when a park ranger issued him a speeding ticket.
Charlie was drafted into the U.S. Army and was trained in one of the final classes of the Army Cavalry School at Fort Riley, Kansas. He served three years in Europe following World War II.
While in Europe, he fell in love with Analee, a young Swiss woman. Sadly, she passed away during that time, and Charlie mourned the loss for the rest of his life.
After his discharge, he used the G.I. Bill to attend the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In his junior year he painted his first oil with just twelve hours notice, borrowing supplies from a classmate. The result was the prestigious William Emlen Cresson Traveling Scholarship, which paid for 18 months of art study in England, Scotland and Europe.
Finding it difficult to make a living as an artist, and still curious about the world, Charlie enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, where he served 4 years as a communications cryptographic coder, including a year training new recruits in Turkey.
He then worked in the art department of the Philadelphia Daily News, where he also contributed short stories. He eventually made his way to the Florida gulf coast, working as a designer/painter of large outdoor billboards. Taking an early retirement, he built a sailboat and explored the Atlantic Coast. He also briefly collected Porsche sports cars.
Throughout this time, he attended every horse event he could travel to. He photographed equine images, which he used as source material for paintings. He painted for love and for money, including numerous commissions.
After reading an article about Clear View Farm’s Jeanne Smith in a publication, Charlie moved to Tryon at 67 and turned to riding seriously. He trained with Jeanne and also with Lisa Miller, furthering his skills with Katie Maxwell. During that time, Katie and her entire family became Charlie’s closest friends.
Charlie treasured his relationships with fellow local artists Phyllis Eifert, Joan McIntyre and Sarah Holmberg.
The works of Charles Harpt have adorned the covers of publications such as the Chronicle of Horse, Lowcountry Horse Sports, and Equine Image. He has also provided featured artwork for the posters of the Block House Steeplechase and the Aiken Steeplechase. He received numerous awards from such organizations as the American Academy of Equine Art and the North Carolina Watercolor Society.
Charlie was predeceased by his parents, Walter & Madeline Harpt of Philadelphia, brother Mahlon McFarland and sister Beatrice Harpt. He also endured the loss of his dear friend Katie Maxwell, who passed away in 2020.
He is survived by friends who knew and loved him, and he leaves a lasting legacy in the form of his art.
We wish to acknowledge with gratitude the staffs of LaurelHurst/LaurelWoods and Hospice of the Carolina Foothills, as well as Dr. Todd Walter.
Look for a retrospective art show and celebration of life in the fall of 2021.
A video biography of Charlie’s life can be seen at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZD4-shtxLqo. It features an interview with Charlie as well as many examples of his artwork.
An online guest register is available at www.mcfarlandfuneralchapel.com
McFarland Funeral Chapel