"Mountain Lake in Autumn"
by Charles Chapin, dated 1869
CHARLES H. CHAPIN
(1830 – 1889)
Oil on canvas, 30 x 50 inches (canvas), 38 x 58 inches (frame), signed lower left: “C. H. Chapin, 1869, N. Y.”
Charles Chapin had studios in Boston, New York City, New Orleans, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Appearing to change locations continually, he had an itinerant career as an illustrator, art teacher and painter of portraits and landscapes in both oil and watercolor. Chapin painted landscapes that reflect the drama and emotional expression characteristic of 19th century landscape painting, especially the excitement over natural wonders such as the Grand Canyon and scenes in the Adirondack Mountains. He was also noted for his portrait of Polish actress Helena Modjeska, posed when she played the role of Mary Queen of Scots. In New Orleans he did Creole subjects. He was founder of the Lotus Club in New York City, and then headed to California, where he was in San Francisco from 1876 to 1877 and exhibited with the San Francisco Art Association. After that he went to the southern United States. From 1882 to 1885 he was active in New Orleans, listing himself as a portrait and landscape painter and “teacher of painting”. In 1882 and 1883 he spent summers in New Orleans, but was there most of the year during 1884 and 1885. During the 1180s, Chapin also painted southern Florida scenes on several winter visits, where he focused primarily on the central and southern Gulf coast including the Everglades. Many persons, not knowing of his time in Florida, have mistakenly identified the location of those paintings as Louisiana, but they are distinctive from his Louisiana paintings in that the tropical foliage depicted would not grow in Louisiana. The Florida views date almost exclusively from the 1880s. By 1887, he had moved to Los Angeles. Chapin was an illustrator of Civil War scenes for Harper’s Weekly in 1864, and also painted in Arizona. One work by him of the Grand Canyon is dated 1886 and titled Lower Falls, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. It is in the collection of the First National Bank of Chicago. In December 1888, Chapin disappeared, and in March 1889 a body identified as his was recovered from the North River in the Adirondack region of upstate New York.