biography of John Gadsby CHAPMAN (1808-1890)

Birth place: Alexandria, VA

Death place: Brooklyn, NY

Addresses: Wash., DC and NYC (1831-48); Italy (c.1848-77); NYC (1877-on)

Profession: Landscape, historical and portrait painter; wood engraver; etcher; illustrator; writer

Studied: George Cooke and Charles Bird King in Wash., DC; PAFA (briefly, c.1827); Rome and Florence, Italy (c.1827-31)

Exhibited: Brooklyn AA, 1864-85, 1869, 1872; NAD, 1868, 1878; Boston Athenaeum; PAFA; American Academy; Apollo Gallery; American Art-Union; Artists' Fund Society; Maryland Hist. Soc.; Brooklyn AA

Member: NA, 1836; Apollo Gallery (a founder, 1838)

Work: U.S Capitol (Rotunda: Baptism of Pocahontas"); BMFA; NAD (self-portrait); Virginia State Library, Richmond (his scrapbook of designs on wood); MMA; Cleveland MA; Boston Athenaeum; Butler IA; George Wash. Univ.; NY Hist. Soc.; U.S. Military Acad., West Point; Gadsby's Tavern, Alexandria."

Comments: An important portrait and historical painter, from 1837-42 he undertook his most significant and well-known American work ó The Baptism of Pocahontas" ó for the Rotunda in the U.S. Capitol building. Later, his 1,400 illustrations for the Harper"s Family Bible (1846) and his "do it yourself" American Drawing Book (1847) were also extremely popular. Chapman returned to Rome in 1848, and remained there for several decades, achieving still more success with his many painted views of the Roman campagna which were frequently exhibited in the U.S. In 1877, he returned to the U.S., but was unable to resume his career, and he died poor. His sons Conrad Wise Chapman and John Linton Chapman were both landscape painters (see entries).

Sources: G&W; DAB; Stauffer; Clement and Hutton; Dunlap, History, II, 436-38; Dunlap, Diary; Fairman, Art and Artists of the Capitol; Cowdrey, NAD; Swan, BA; Rutledge, PA; Cowdrey, AA & AAU; Rutledge, MHS. More recently, see Baigell, Dictionary; Wright, Artists in Virgina Before 1900; McMahan, Artists of Washington, D.C. Chapman's own writings include the previously mentioned American Drawing Book (N.Y., 1847); as well as Elements of Art (London, 1848); and Elementary Drawing Book (N.Y. and Chicago, 1872); 300 Years of American Art, vol. 1, 144; BAI, courtesy Dr. Clark S. Marlor"