National Museum of Women in the Arts
Minerva J. Chapman
December 06 1858 - June 14 1947
Minerva J. Chapman, Self-Portrait, 1914. Charcoal on paper. 18 x 11 1/2 inches (46 x 29 cm). Private collection, MA, USA. Courtesy of Donna Albino.
Place of Birth:
Phonetic Spelling:
mih-NERR-vah jay CHAP-mehn
Minority status:
White non-Hispanic
Work Type/Media:
Artistic Role(s):
Landscape Painter, Miniaturist, Oil Painter, Painter, Portraitist, Still life Painter, Watercolorist
Artist's Biography:
Minerva J. Chapman lived during an era of dynamic change. In the Western art world, Impressionism reached its peak while Post-Impressionism and Modernism were steadily receiving more recognition. In Parisian and American society in particular, women were securing their independence and gaining entrance into premier arts academies. As seen from her personal letters, art notebooks, and immense collection of artwork, Chapman reaped the benefits of these changing trends and devoted her life entirely to art, becoming an important figure in both oil painting and ivory miniatures—two painting media requiring vastly different skills—for over five decades. She exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the World Columbian Exposition of 1893, the Pan-American Exposition of 1901, the Royal Academies of London and Brussels, and had a solo show at The Art Institute of Chicago.

Chapman grew up in Chicago and was among the first students of the new Chicago Academy of Fine Arts (renamed the School of The Art Institute of Chicago in 1882). Upon moving to Paris with her sister Blanche in 1886, Champan was quickly swept into the European art world, traveling to Belgium, Holland, and Germany and integrating the unique artistic styles of each culture into her drawings. Charles Lasar, an American artist living in Paris who championed women artists and taught art theory and discipline, was Chapman’s teacher for eight years and her lifelong advisor. Living in a Parisian neighborhood teeming with international art students and having the financial resources to sustain an art career without worrying about marketing, Chapman completely immersed herself in painting portraits, landscapes, and still-lifes in a vibrant Impressionist style. In 1906, Chapman was one of the first American women (along with Mary Cassatt and Elizabeth Nourse) to be elected a member of the prestigious Salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. She exhibited 48 oils and 124 miniatures at the Paris Salon from 1892 to 1926.

Chapman’s artistic career coincided with the revival of ivory miniatures, a process that utilizes painstakingly tiny and controlled brushstrokes to create a texture quite different from the bold, atmospheric quality of her oil paintings. Chapman was among a sisterhood of American and Parisian women painters who exhibited miniatures and taught the art form. Chapman painted 181 miniatures during her career, most of which were portraits of women. Chapman’s reputation as a premier miniature painter bolstered her oil painting career and attracted fame in both America and abroad. In 1925, Chapman made her last trip overseas and settled in Palo Alto, California.

Place(s) of Residence:
Where Trained/Schools:
Académie Julian, Paris, France (1888-1897) School of The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA (1880-1886) Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA, USA (1876-1878) University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA (1875)
Related Visual Artists:
friend of Mary Cassatt student of Annie Cornelia Shaw student of John Vanderpoel student of Georg Jacobides student of William-Adophe Bouguereau student of Jules-Joseph Lefebvre student of Jean-Paul Laurens student of Tony Robert-Fleury student of Charles Lasar student of Elizabeth Nourse
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Gold Medal, California Society of Miniature Painters, Pasadena, CA, USA (1929) President, International Art Union, Paris, France (1909) Elected Member, Le Salon, Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France (1906)
Earliest exhibition:
Annual Exhibition, Chicago Society of Artists, Chicago, IL, USA (1893)
NMWA exhibition(s):
Minerva J. Chapman
Preserving the Past, Securing the Future: Donations of Art, 1987-1997
Artist retrospective(s):
Minerva J. Chapman, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC, USA (1987) Minerva Chapman 1858-1947, Wortsman Rowe Galleries, San Francisco, CA, USA (1974) Minerva J. Chapman, Adams Davidson Galleries, Washington, DC, USA (1971)
Related places
Palo Alto (died at)
Still Life: A Shelf in the Studio, Paris