A printmaker and painter, Bartlett was born in Bridgeport, Dorsetshire in England. He studied chemistry and metallurgy before entering the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1883. In 1886, he went to Paris to study at the Académie Julian, where he exhibited some of his early works.
Bartlett left Europe in the early 1900s and spent three years traveling in China, Japan and India. While in Japan , he learned the art of woodblock printing and later became famous for this technique.
Intending a brief stay, Bartlett traveled to Hawaii in 1917 and ended up staying on for the rest of his life. He held a successful exhibition of watercolors and woodblock prints at the Charles Cooke mansion and later held frequent exhibits at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, including a solo show there in 1939. Since his death in 1940, he is remembered as one of Hawaii's most beloved artists.
Bartlett was President of the Royal Watercolor Society and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Painters and Printmakers.