Jefferson David Chalfant

Artist Biography

Jefferson David Chalfant is known primarily for his realistically rendered still lifes, genre paintings, and portraits. Born in 1856 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Chalfant studied at the Académie Julian in Paris with the French academic painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825–1905). Chalfant came to be known as one of the leading American trompe l’oeil still-life painters of the nineteenth century. Influenced by William M. Harnett, Chalfant gained recognition for his series of four violin paintings. His skill in trompe l’oeil painting is exemplified by the facsimile he created of a one dollar bill, rendered so realistically that it was confiscated by the United States government. After 1890, Chalfant shifted his focus to genre painting, frequently depicting interiors and craftsman at their trade. In the early 1900s, Chalfant switched his focus yet again, this time concentrating on portraiture, which he continued painting until suffering a stroke in 1927. In addition to his prolific painting career, Chalfant patented several of his own inventions, including a bike seat, a pedal crank, and a type justification machine. His paintings were exhibited at the National Academy of Design, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and the Art Institute of Chicago. Today his work may be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Delaware Art Museum, Brandywine River Museum, de Young Museum, and Newark Museum.

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