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Chapin James Ormsbee

New Jersey 1887 – 1975 Toronto

American Painter

Lady in a Fur Waistcoat

Signature: Signed lower left and dated 1913
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: Image size 100 x 75 cm, frame size 117 x 92 cm

Chapin James Ormsbee, born on July 9, 1887, in West Orange, New Jersey, was a distinguished American painter and illustrator. His contributions to the art world left a lasting impact, and his legacy extended beyond the canvas into the realms of music and family connections.

Chapin’s artistic journey began with formal education at Cooper Union and the Art Students League of New York. Seeking further inspiration, he continued his studies at the Royal Academy of Antwerp in Belgium. Early in his career, he garnered recognition by winning the Temple Gold Medal of the Pennsylvania Academy for his compelling portrayals of the Marvin Family.

Notably, Chapin created a series of portraits in the 1920s featuring the Marvin family, a body of work that significantly influenced the early history of Regionalist art. His artistic prowess extended beyond portraiture, as evidenced by at least five cover art commissions for TIME magazine during what has been termed the golden age of TIME covers, spanning from 1942 to 1966.

Chapin’s artistic creations found homes in the private collections of art enthusiasts and various prestigious institutions, including The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, The Phillips Collection, The Art Institute of Chicago, and The Harvard Art Museums, among others.

In 1918, Chapin married Abby Beal Forbes in New York, and they welcomed a son named James Forbes Chapin, who later gained fame as a celebrated jazz drummer. This artistic lineage continued with James’s son, singer-songwriter Harry Chapin. Despite the initial union with Forbes, Chapin later divorced.

During the late 1930s, while teaching in California, Chapin encountered Mary Fischer, whom he married in 1941. However, his life took a turn in 1969 when, in opposition to United States foreign policy in Southeast Asia, he decided to move to Canada. It was in Toronto that James Ormsbee Chapin breathed his last on July 12, 1975.

His artistic contributions are preserved and celebrated through the James Ormsbee Chapin Papers, a collection containing correspondence, sketches, articles, reproductions, and proofs. This valuable archive was generously donated to the Delaware Art Museum in 1994, ensuring that Chapin’s legacy remains accessible to future generations.

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