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 Oliver Newberry, Jr Chaffee  (1881 - 1944)



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Lived/Active: Massachusetts/Michigan/North Carolina      Known for: abstract figure-objects and landscape painting

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Ad Code: 3
Oliver Newberry Chaffee
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Abstract painter and printmaker Oliver Newberry Chaffee was born in 1881.  He studied at the Art Students League in New York City with Charles Hawthorne; at the New York (City) School of Art with William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri;  the Detroit Fine Arts Academy, Michigan; and the Academie Julian in Paris, France.  He was a member of the Provincetown Art Association, Massachusetts, and Society of Independent Artists, New York City.

Influenced by the Fauve painters during his stay in Paris, Chaffee was expert in that style, exhibiting three Fauvist landscapes at the 1913 Armory Show in New York City.  A contemporary review of the Armory Show complimented Chaffee's expression of "intense sunlight," and likening his paintings to those of Alfred Maurer. Chaffee's work at this time was among the earliest and best manifestations of Fauvism in America.

Chaffee was a well-known teacher, associated particularly with the Provincetown Art Association, where he taught, among other media, the white-line method of woodcut espoused by that organization. Chaffee visited St. Augustine, Florida for a time in 1939.

Other Chaffee exhibitions include:

Detroit Art Institute, Michigan, 1908, 1933, 1946
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, Philadelphia, 1912
Salon d'Automne, Paris, 1913, 1924
Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, 1919, 1928, 1932, 1942
Brooklyn Museum, New York City, 1927
Museum of Modern Art, New York City, 1933

Chaffee also exhibited at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, and Worcester Museum of Art, Massachusetts.  Chaffee's work was shown in posthumous exhibitions at the Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York, 1977; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. 1986; and Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1991.

Chaffee is represented in the Corcoran Gallery of Art; Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Provincetown Heritage Museum; Provincetown Art Association and Museum; Cape Museum of Fine Arts, Dennis, Cape Cod, Massachusetts; and Kalamazzo Institute of Arts, Michigan.

Chaffee appears in the catalog, Provincetown Abstract Painting, 1915-1950, published by the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, from work in the Penny and Elton Yasuna Collection, with an essay by Tony Vevers. Solveiga Rush authored the book, Oliver Newberry Chaffee (1881-1944), published by the Taft Museum of Art, in 1991.

Oliver Newberry Chaffee died in 1944.


Biography from ACME Fine Art:
Oliver Newberry Chaffee, Jr.

Art Students League, with Hawthorne
New York School of Art, with Henri and Chase
Detroit Fine Arts Academy
Academie Julian

Detroit Art Institute, 1908, 1933, 1946
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, 1912
Armory Show, 1913
Salon d'Automne, Paris, 1913, 1924
Art Institute of Chicago, 1919, 1928, 1932, 1942
Provincetown Art Association and Museum
Brooklyn Museum, 1927
Museum of Modern Art, 1933
Worcester Museum of Art
Everson Museum of Art, 1977
Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1986
Taft Museum, 1991

Society of Independent Artists
Provincetown Art Association

Smithsonian Institution
Corcoran Gallery of Art
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
Provincetown Art Association and Museum
Provincetown Heritage Museum

Oliver Chaffee was one of the most important and influential early modern painters and teachers in the art colony in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Chaffee's early work was strongly influenced by his training in New York with Robert Henri, as well as his training in Paris at the Academie Julian, where he was undoubtedly familiar with the contemporary Fauvist work of Matisse and Derain. Chaffee's work in the teens represents some of the earliest and most accomplished "Fauvist" work done in the United States.

Three of Chaffee's canvases were included in the all-important Armory Show of 1913 in New York.  All three were Fauvist landscapes. His work was well received in the company of works by Matisse, Picasso, Hartley, Marin, and Maurer.  One critic's review of the show compared Chaffee's work with that of Maurer, and praised the "effect of intense sunlight" in his work.

Provincetown Dunes is a vigorously expressionistic landscape which dates from 1913.  Chaffee's extraordinary aplomb in conveying light, air, and color is readily apparent in this rare and important example of his early work.

Biography from Julie Heller Gallery:
Referred to as "modern before modernism was popular," Chaffee was an artist who dedicated a lifetime to the pursuit of a personal visual vocabulary, one that whould enable him to express himself and his love of light and color as they interact with nature and the objective world.

His diversified education, although rooted in academic tradition and realism, included experimentation with Impressionism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, and Primitivism.  In a tribute at Chaffee's in 1944, his friend, artist Hutchins Hapgood provides a glimpse of the real Oliver Chaffee: "It is hard to separate Oliver Chaffee the artist from Oliver Chaffee the man.  His art bodily lifted from his life, and symbolized in form.  It is singularly pure, childlike, and yet naive.  There is in it the maturity of loveliness, and that quality was marked in his personal life.  Art may be defined as the quality of childhood maintained in mature years.  The child is full of wonder, everything arouses his imagination.  He is filled with the fresh beauty and meaning of life.  But as he grows into a man, he is generally confronted with the problems of practical life, which tend to kill the original simple vision.  When the child survives, in spite of all the experiences of man, is when the artist may appear."

Much of Chaffee's life was spent in remote places, far away from artistic centers.  He lived a simple life, savoring the beauty and the life-affirming forces he found in nature and all living things.

Text by Barbara Blackledge Miller & Solveiga Rush

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Oliver Chaffee is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
New York Armory Show of 1913

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