Conrad Wise Chapman (1842-1910), VIEW OF MEXICO: Popcatepetl and Izaccihuatl mountains.
Conrad Wise Chapman (1842-1910).
VIEW OF MEXICO: Popcatepetl and Izaccihuatl mountains.
New York: 1902 Oil on panel (6 x 13 4/8 inches), signed and dated lower left "Chapman, New York, 1902"
Provenance: inscribed "Granville G. Valentine, Richmond", and "46.117.1", "Cat No. 192" on the verso; deaccessioned from a Virginia institution to benefit the collections and conservation funds
A fine oil painting of the magnificent view of the Popcatepetl and Izaccihuatl mountains from the valley below. The artistic prowess of the American artist Conrad Wise Chapman spanned a tumultuous period in the mid nineteenth century. His soulful expression was fueled by his nationalist pride and with the backdrop significant historical events.
The artistic prowess of the American artist Conrad Wise Chapman spanned a tumultuous period in the mid nineteenth century. His soulful expression was fueled by his nationalist pride and with the backdrop significant historical events.
While often associated with his work during the Civil War, art historian Ben Bassham writes the artist's Mexican period was "the finest work of his episodic career." He created several large scale paintings, murals and sketches while in Mexico and later drew subjects from them for smaller canvases created at the turn of the twentieth century. In the years leading up to Chapman's arrival in Mexico, the country had struggled between conservatives upholding the authority of the clergy and the army on one side and liberals, led by Benito Juarez, on the other. This unrest had a tide effect, England, Spain and France threatened military intervention to ensure payment on their investments in Mexican bonds, which was welcomed by the conservatives. Napoleon III was the most aggressive in this pursuit, sending the Austrian archduke Ferdinand Maxmilian as the French puppet regime who arrived in Mexico City in 1864. This French experiment only lasted three years, but it did provide Chapman time and a relatively safe haven while he embarked on an extraordinary adventure in a new land.
Chapman was a man who was weak for lost causes. Unable to give up the dream of the confederacy after Lee's surrender, he followed a band of fellow displaced southerners who made their way into Mexico in 1865 with the intention of assisting Maxmillian in his war against Juarez. This mission was of course short-lived and not long after arriving in Monterrey the group disbanded. Chapman did not move on, he was enamored with the picturesque architecture and terracotta hues of the landscape which likely reminded him of Italy. He set about sketching the magnificent panoramas before him. Writing to his father with the glee of a young man in love, "I am about to take a step which I know you will approve, if you were here. It is to remain in this country long enough to get together materials for pictures in the future. Mexico is the most thoroughly picturesque country I ever was in. The mountain scenery surpasses anything I have ever seen before. I have a splendid chance to make studies and sketches and get all the material I want. An old priest Padre Navarro, who has a chapel a few miles away from here, has invited me to stay with him and help him in fixing up his church, in which he takes great pride The party I have been with so long I leave here; tomorrow I go out with the Old Padre to his mountain residence, where I expect to work and smoke for several months to come I shall very probably get tired of the life that I am about to enter in, but I will stretch a big canvas and go to work I think if I leave here with an empty portfolio I will never forgive myself for it. If I should be hard pushed, I can go to work painting Madonnas at a dollar a piece." Off Chapman went to the small town outside Monterrey named Santa Catarina where the Old Padre lived. There, with little Spanish, he got on using primarily Italian which he felt saved him from the ill feelings towards Americans that still lingered from the invasion in 1846. In Santa Catarina, and the surrounding Monterrey Valley, Chapman captured the landscape in watercolors, pencil drawings and oil sketches for his stated intention "to get together materials for pictures in the future."
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Conrad Wise Chapman(1842-1910), VIEW OF MONTERREY, FROM THE CERRO DEL CHIPINQUE: Palacio del Obispado, Monterrey valley.