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Carleton T. Chapman was born on September 18, 1860, in New London, Ohio. He married Aurelie M. Reynaud, on November 8, 1911, Bronxville, New York. Chapman was raised under the auspices of the Baptist faith, but his scholastic education was received mainly in Oberlin schools where the family moved around 1873. As a boy he spent summers in his uncle's shipyard in Maine.
He moved to New York and studied at the Art Students League and at the National Academy. He also gained experience at the Academie Julian in Paris, the South Kensingston Museum, and the National Gallery in London. Chapman was a student of marine architecture and he studied naval memorabilia, the sea and its atmosphere and nearly all of his work is near or on the sea.
Chapman was commissioned by the US Naval Academy to paint pictures of naval activities during the War of 1812. His illustrations appear in a book by James Barnes Naval Actions of the War of 1812. There are many books written with his illustrations. His paintings are in the Naval Academy Museum, Duquesne Club of Pittsburgh, Larchmont Yacht Club, Atlantic Yacht Club and Lotus Club all of New York and the Ellicott Club of Buffalo. Several museums have a collection of his paintings – the de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, CA, Slater Memorial Museum, Norwich, CT, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA, The Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY, New York Historical Society, New York, NY, The Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, OH. J. Pierpont Morgan of New York City bought several of his paintings. His paintings are loaned by the Naval Academy and are displayed in government office buildings.
Chapman received many awards and commendations for his paintings. Among his awards was a Silver Medal presented at Boston, 1892; bronze medals at The World's Colombian Exposition at Chicago, 1893; Atlanta Exposition, 1894; Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo, 1901 and Charleston Exposition in 1902. He was a Member of the Jury of Selection for the United States Section, Department of Art, and also of the International Jury of Award for the Universal Exposition in St. Louis, 1904. He was an Associate of the National Academy and a member of the American Water Color Society, the New York Watercolor Club, New York Etching Club, Artists' Fund Society and the Century Association. His last exhibition (posthumous) was at the Toledo Museum of Art in 1925.
During the Spanish American War, Chapman was sent by Harper's Magazine Weekly of New York with the U.S. Navy to Cuba and witnessed nearly all the important engagements of the Spanish American War. He supplied their pictorial publication with sketches of the war. Carlton was with Admiral Sampson's Fleet from the beginning to the end of the war in the Caribbean. He witnessed the destruction of Cervera's Fleet. He also worked for Scribner's Magazine illustrating Captain Mahan's articles on famous U.S. Naval battles.
Chapman died on February 12, 1925, in New York City. His obituary from The New York Times, February 13, 1925, p. 17 reads:
"Carlton T. Chapman Dies. American Landscape and Marine Painter Had Won Many Medals. Carlton Theodore Chapman, marine and landscape artist who had won many medals at art exhibitions in this country, died yesterday of Heart Disease at his residence, 58 West Fifty-seventh Street, where services will be held at three o'clock tomorrow afternoon. He left a widow, formerly Aurelie M. Reynaud of Mount Vernon, who he married in 1911. Mr. Chapman was born in New London, Ohio, September 18, 1860, and received his professional training at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League in this city. His paintings were awarded medals at Boston in 1892, at Chicago in 1893, Atlanta in 1894, Buffalo in 1901, and at Charleston in 1902.”
In Carlton's will, he bequeathed all his New York City holdings to his wife. Before Aurelie died, she sold some of his paintings and also donated some to the Naval Academy in Annapolis.
"Maritime Art Sold. Evening Session of Chapman Collection Brings in $12,769,” from a newspaper clipping from the New York Times, May 27, 1924, page 19;
$45,770 Received for Maritime Art.
Last Session of Chapman Collection Sale Brings in $32,915. $6,400 For One Model, from a newspaper clipping from the New York Times, May 28, 1924, page 14."
The artist was buried in Grove Street Cemetery, New London, Ohio, a famous illustrator and easel painter who adored the sea and its diversified coasts.
1904, Universal Exposition Catalogue, St. Louis, p. 281 ;
1925, NAD Commemorative Exhibition, p. 160 ;
Neuhaus, E., The History & Ideals of American Art , 1931;
Sheldon, G.W., Recent Ideals of American Art , 1977;
Johnston, P. The New England Fisheries, 1984;
Archibald, E.H., Dictionary of Sea Painters, 1980;
Hughes, E.M., Artists in California , p. 1249;
Valerie Leeds, Dreams & Dramas, Moonlight and Twilight in American Art, Hollis Taggart Gallery, NY, 2003;
Gerdts, Wm., Art Across America, p. 396, 1990;
Who Was Who in American Art, p. 3724, 1999.