John Gadsby Chapman

America's First Artist-Etcher

With a Catalogue of His Italian Etchings

John Gadsby Chapman (1808–1889) was one of nineteenth-century America’s most original and influential artists, and he is deservedly well regarded today for his paintings, drawings, book illustrations, and writing. In contrast, his accomplishments as America’s first artist-etcher—that is to say, the first to design and execute his own etchings—have been largely overlooked until now. This monograph is the first to appear on the Virginia-born Chapman for more than half a century and the first ever to consider the totality of his etching career and situate it within the broader context of his personal life and painting practice. Readers familiar with Chapman’s mural The Baptism of Pocahontas in the U.S. Capitol, his more than 1,400 designs for Harper Brothers’ landmark Illuminated Bible (1846), his American Drawing-Book (1847), and oeuvre of Grand Tour paintings will be delighted to learn more about his prolonged commitment to fine art etching.

The full-color volume includes an illustrated catalogue of forty-three original etchings of Italian subjects that Chapman produced over a span of more than fifty years, from his student days in Rome from 1828 to 1830 to his lengthy residence in Italy from 1849 to 1881, and includes four that he made after paintings by his sons John Linton Chapman (1839–1905) and Conrad Wise Chapman (1842–1910). Sixty-nine figures and gorgeous full-page details complement the text and augment our understanding of the Chapman family of painters. The present study will be of note to anyone interested in international 19th-century print culture and is especially timely and relevant in light of recent scholarship that seeks to redress the teleological tendency to privilege photography as the modern, authoritative standard against which all reproductive media are measured.

Contents include: 1. Early Life and Tutelage; 2. A Roman Education; 3. The Great Mart of Mammon; 4. Yearning for Italy; 5. Civil War Years; 6. An Etching Revival; 7. Dénouement; Afterword; Catalogue of the Italian Etchings of John Gadsby Chapman; Appendix: “Etchings and Engravings of Original Designs and Other Plates,” John Gadsby Chapman’s Handwritten Memoranda.

John F. McGuigan Jr. and Mary K. McGuigan
2015. Hardcover, 184 pp., illus.
ISBN: 9780692454930


James E. Freeman 1808–1884

An American Painter In Italy

A student in the National Academy of Design’s inaugural class of 1826, Freeman began as a painter of bespoke portraits and the occasional fancy picture in central New York State. He first traveled to Italy in 1836 and remained a fixture of the vibrant art scene there until his death at Rome in 1884. In that time he forged a unique career painting engaging fancy pictures of humble Italian peasants for an international clientele. These sentimental character studies of impish street urchins, beatific mothers with children, and blind beggars were appealing for their artless beauty, an ideal closely allied to the 18th-century cult of sensibility. By resituating Freeman’s paintings amid their literary and historical sources, this project reveals the important rhetorical function of the fancy picture as a vehicle for social and political change in 19th-century America. Freeman’s dedication to the communicative potential of the fancy picture resulted in a remarkably cohesive oeuvre that constitutes his lasting legacy to American art.

Published on the occasion of the exhibition at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in Utica, NY, September 13, 2009–January 17, 2010; and the Newington-Cropsey Foundation, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, 19 September–18 November 2011.

John F. McGuigan Jr. and Mary K. McGuigan
Utica, NY: Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, 2009. Softbound. Color glossy pictorial wraparound dustjacket over printed card covers. 165 pp., 100+ color plates and additional bw illustrations.
ISBN: 9780915895359

Available for purchase


America’s Rome

Artists in the Eternal City,


Published in conjunction with the first exhibition devoted to Rome as an art center for 19th-century American artists held at the Fenimore Art Museum from May 23–December 31, 2009. This lavishly illustrated catalogue includes a summary overview of the first three chapters of William L. Vance’s critically acclaimed book, America’s Rome, Volume I: Classical Rome, winner of the 1989 Association of American Publishers’ Prize for Most Outstanding Books in the Arts, Literature, and Language; as well as important new scholarship by Mary K. McGuigan, entitled “‘This Market of Physiognomy’: American Artists and Rome’s Art Academies, Life Schools, and Models, 1825–1870”; and John F. McGuigan Jr.’s critical overview, “American Open-Air Landscape Painting in Rome, 1825–1885.”

William L. Vance, Mary K. McGuigan, John F. McGuigan Jr.
Edited by Paul S. D’Ambrosio
Cooperstown, New York: Fenimore Art Museum, 2009. Softbound. 30cm., pbk., 122pp., 150 color illus.
ISBN: 9780917334361

Available for purchase


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