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 Minerva Josephine Chapman  (1858 - 1947)

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Lived/Active: California/Illinois / France      Known for: portrait, still life and landscape painting

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Minerva Josephine Chapman
An example of work by Minerva Josephine Chapman
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:


Besides miniatures on ivory, Chapman (1858-1947) executed oils in a painterly style, and also used a more broad post-impressionist technique.  Born in Altmar, New York, Chapman grew up in Chicago, was educated at Mount Holyoke College, then returned to study at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago under Annie Shaw (1852-1887) and John H. Vanderpoel.  By 1882, she was in Munich, then continued her studies at the Académie Julian in Paris (1888-1897).  She befriended Charles “Shorty” Lasar, who heavily influenced her bold, plein-air painting style. Around this time she painted at Auvers-sur-Oise and Etaples. 

Her impressive exhibition record, too extensive to outline here, included the annuals of the Art Institute (1897-1919, 1929) and the Paris Salon (two still-lives in1897 and a portrait and A Corner of Our Studio in 1899).  She continued to exhibit in the Salon through 1926. Actually, a great part of Chapman’s life was spent in Paris (1887-1925), though she had Chicago studios at various locations. 

At the National Academy of Design Chapman re-exhibited A Corner of Our Studio in 1903 and three miniatures on ivory later in 1914.  The landscapes of Chapman might be regarded as developments of the academic landscape étude, which the French Academy could accept only as a rough study of nature, not as a finished work.  This may explain why her works were rejected by the Paris Salon jury in the early 1890s.  Around 1910 Chapman began to focus more on miniatures.  She won the San Diego gold medal for miniature painting in 1915 at the Pan-American Exposition. Her later years were spent in Palo Alto, California, where she died in 1947.

Sparks, Esther. A Biographical Dictionary of Chicago Artists 1808-1945. Diss., Northwestern University, 1971, p. 325; Minerva J. Chapman, A Retrospective Exhibition. Washington, DC: Adams, Davidson Galleries, Inc., 1971.

Submitted by Michael Preston Worley, Ph.D.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A major figure in the revival movement for painting miniatures on ivory, Minerva Chapman was best-known in Paris, France, where she spent most of her professional life, living there primarily from 1887 to 1925.  She also painted many impressionist landscapes and still lifes with oils.

She was born to a wealthy family in Altmar, New York, and attended the University of Chicago and Mount Holyoke College.  She studied at the Art Institute of Chicago with John Vanderpoel, and then made her first trip to Europe in 1886 where she studied in Munich and at the Academie Julian in Paris in 1887.  In Paris, her most influential teacher was Charles Lasar, who introduced her to still-life painting.  In 1897, she first exhibited at the Paris Salon, entering two still-life paintings.

In 1897, she returned to the United States and opened a studio in Chicago and also painted at summer colonies in Wisconsin and Michigan and began exhibiting still lifes at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Society of Western Artists.  In 1900, she began painting watercolor miniatures on ivory, completing 181 during her career.

In 1903, Chapman returned to Paris, and studied with Emile Rene Menard, who advocated the small oil sketch, and ultimately she painted more than 150 of these, each measuring about 4 inches by 5 inches.

She left France in 1914 for the United States during the war, but by 1918, she was back in Paris, staying there until 1925, when at the age of 67, she settled in Palo Alto, California where she died in 1947.  Her last painting was done in 1932 because of failing eyesight.

Stephanie Strass, "American Women Artists"

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Altmar, New York on December 6, 1858.  After attending Mt Holyoke College and the University of Chicago, Chapman studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  By 1889 she was in Paris where she further studied at Académie Julian under Robert-Fleury, Bouguereau, Courtois, and Lasar.

A peripatetic artist, she was back in Chicago in 1900; elected a member of the Friday Club in National, CA in 1901; and returned to France in 1903.  During 1915-17 she again lived in San Diego.  After several years in Paris, in 1925 she settled in Palo Alto, CA where she remained until her death on June 14, 1947.

Best known as a miniature painter, she also painted full-size landscapes, still lives, portraits, and quiet interiors.  Her palette prior to 1895 included bright greens and blues; whereas, after that time she used a more somber one of purple, gray, and russet.

World's Columbian Expo (Chicago), 1893; Paris Salon, 1899-1926; Société Nationale des Beaux Arts (Paris), 1897, 1905, 1909; Pan-American Expo (Buffalo), 1901; Panama-Calif. Expo (San Diego), 1915 (two gold medals); Palo Alto Art Club, 1929 (solo); Calif. Society of Min. Painters, 1929 (gold medal), 1931 (1st prize), 1936; Century of Progress Expo (Chicago), 1933; County Fair (LA), 1935; Mount Holyoke College, 1986 (solo).

Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs, et Graveurs (Bénézit, E); American Art Annual 1898-1933; Who's Who in American Art 1936-41; Artists of the American West (Doris Dawdy).
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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