Minerva Josephine Chapman Biography

Minerva Josephine Chapman




A major figure in the revival movement for painting miniatures on ivory, Minerva Josephine Chapman was best known in Paris, France, where she spent most of her professional life, living there primarily from 1887 to 1925. She also painted many impressionist landscapes and still lifes with oils.

Chapman was born on December 6, 1858, to a wealthy family in Altmar, New York, and attended the University of Chicago and Mount Holyoke College. She studied at the Art Institute of Chicago with John Vanderpoel, and then made her first trip to Europe in 1886 where she studied in Munich and at the Academie Julian in Paris in 1887.  In Paris, her most influential teacher was Charles Lasar, who introduced her to still-life painting.

In 1897, Chapman returned to the United States and opened a studio in Chicago and also painted at summer colonies in Wisconsin and Michigan and began exhibiting still lifes at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Society of Western Artists.  In 1900, she began painting watercolor miniatures on ivory, completing 181 during her career.

In 1903, Chapman returned to Paris, and studied with Emile Rene Menard, who advocated the small oil sketch, and ultimately she painted more than 150 of these, each measuring about 4 inches by 5 inches. She left France in 1914 for the United States during the war, but by 1918, she was back in Paris, staying there until 1925, when at the age of 67, she settled in Palo Alto, California where she died on June 14, 1947. 

Chapman’s work was included in the Chicago World’s Fair in 1983, the Paris Salon yearly between 1899 and 1926, Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1897, 1905, and 1909, Panama-American Exposition in 1901, and the Panama-California Exposition in 1915. Her work in represented in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Brooklyn Museum, and the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College.


Stephanie Strass, "American Women Artists"

Edan Huges