The career path of artist Conrad Wise Chapman follows a cycle of success and pain. One of three siblings born in Washington D.C. to the famed portraitist who painted Pocahontas, artist John Gadsby Chapman, the family left for Rome, Italy in 1848. His father taught him his artistic trade, and instilled such a love for his native Virginia that with the beginning of the American Civil War, Conrad returned to enlist in the Confederacy. Wounded in his first action at Shiloh in 1862, he was reassigned to Charleston, where he began sketching and painting important moments of the war for Generals Henry Wise (a family friend) and P.T. Beauregard. He was on hand to record the bombardment of Charleston’s fortifications in 1863.
With his mother ailing, he receive a furlough to return to Rome in 1864, where he completed a series of canvases from battle sketches that today reside in the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia. He returned to America just as the war ended, and chose to head to Mexico with a group of ex-Confederates. He continued to produce art there and works upon his return to Europe in 1867. This period is widely recognized as his artistic pinnacle, with works of atmospheric panoramas of the countrysides and their people. He is known for his scenes of the French beaches in summertime, and ice skaters in the winter. He visited Paris, London and New York as well, but failed to receive the full acclaim he rightly deserved. He settled finally in Hampton, Virginia, and painted until his passing in 1910.
Chapman’s historic contributions to the visual records of the Civil War are prominent, but his artistic views of the world hold respect as a visionary and well-traveled artist of the 19TH Century.