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Alfred Kappes

 (1850 - 1894)
Alfred Kappes was active/lived in New York, Virginia.  Alfred Kappes is known for African-American genre scene painting, illustration, etching.

Alfred Kappes

Biography from the Archives of askART

A 19th-century American genre* painter in New York City, Alfred Kappes was renowned during his career for his sensitive portrayal of the lives of the African-American community, and was recognized as such in art reviews of the day. Unlike other artists who sentimentalized African-American subjects, Kappes painted these people with frankness and sensitivity. 

In 1870, he joined the staff of The New York Daily Graphic and also continued to do other illustration work including for People from the Other World, a study of paranormal activity by Henry Steel Olcott.

He was elected an Associate member of the National Academy of Design* in 1887. This same year, he exhibited his painting Tattered and Torn at the Boston Art Club*. In 1887, he also won the Julius Hallgarten Prize* at the National Academy of Design exhibition for his painting Buckwheat Cakes. However, he was later disqualified when it was learned he was over the specified maximum age of thirty-five to qualify for the Prize.

In 1894, his Academy exhibition entry Voudoo led to his being voted a member of the Academy, but he died that same year, and the failure of his family to provide a portrait to the Academy voided his membership. In addition to participation in Academy annual exhibitions, he occasionally exhibited at the American Water Color Society*, Boston Art Club* and Salmagundi Club*.

Kappes, born in New York City, was the son of a German carpenter.  In the late 1860s, he became apprenticed to a diesinker* but soon left to become an illustrator for Harper and Brothers. As a part of his illustration work for Harper's, he did sketches of the homes and tombs of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, both published in an 1886 edition of Harpers Weekly.

John Davis, "Alfred Kappes", Paintings and Sculpture in the Collection of the National Academy of Design, 1826-1925, p. 329, (David Dearinger, Editor)
Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg
Smith Museum of Art

* For references for these terms and others, see AskART Glossary

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

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About  Alfred Kappes

Born:  1850 - New York City
Died:   1894 - Yonkers, New York
Known for:  African-American genre scene painting, illustration, etching