Louis Benett Chevalier (1823 – 1889)
A versatile artist in Erie, Pennsylvania’s early history was Louis Bennett Chevalier, considered for years the leading general utility artist and one who gave his attention to all classes of work. He was perhaps best known as a painter of scenery for the stage while being equally gifted in sign painting, newspaper cartooning and landscapes.
Born in Plattsburg, New York in 1823 of French parentage, Chevalier spent most of his adult life in Erie. Nothing is known of his education or artistic influences. He was first active in Cleveland in 1845 where he was in partnership with Sebastian Heine. By the late 1840’s, Chevalier had married and was living in Erie, Pennsylvania. There, newspaper accounts left a trail as to his work in all his various mediums.
In the spring of 1869, Chevalier’s studio was showing an oil painting of Cupid Sharpening His Arrow, in which the match maker was rubbing the point of an arrow on a stone while stooped beside a stream. In the distance was a group of young people, his intended targets. The execution of detail was praised as splendid by the Erie Weekly Observer and the very best effort of Chevalier’s to date.
In 1875 he moved to Detroit to work in the decorative department of the Pullman car works, manufacturer of railroad and other passenger vehicles. It is likely that he worked with a brother, John Edward Chevalier, who also found employment there in 1881. He apparently worked in Detroit off and on between 1877 and 1884, but when his canvas, Cupid Sharpening His Arrows, was shown the Cleveland art Club exhibition of 1878, he was described in the catalogue as a “resident artist.” After 1886 he was listed in the Cleveland directories, (at the same address as John Edward Chevalier,) where his two married daughters also resided. The artist died in Cleveland, November 15, 1889 at age 66, and was returned to Erie for burial in Erie Cemetery.
Biography excerpted from the unpublished manuscript by Dr. Kirk W. Steehler, Erie Artists – A History of Heroes.
Information courtesy of Edward Bentley, researcher of Lansing, Michigan.