John Gadsby Chapman

Artist Biography

The father of Conrad Wise Chapman, John Gadsby Chapman was an important early American portraitist and history painter. Born in Alexandria, Virginia, Chapman trained under the still-life painter Charles Bird King and went on to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and in Florence and Rome. His paintings were very well-received, and he was selected to create a mural, “The Baptism of Pocahontas,” to decorate the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. Chapman also experienced success as an illustrator, engraver, and author; he produced over 1,400 illustrations for the Harper’s Family Bible and wrote the “American Drawing Book,” the most popular instructional art guide of the nineteenth century. He turned to landscape painting at the end of his career and spent his last forty years in Italy, creating paintings and etchings of the Roman landscape. His work can now be found in such museums as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

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