CORINTH INFORMATION DATABASE Version 1.3 © 1995 Milton Sandy, Jr.

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                     by Harold Holzer

      CONRAD WISE CHAPMAN was surely the most tormented- yet also the most
  talented- of all Confederate soldier/artists. His father, John, was a
  celebrated painter and patriotic Virginian who raised his son in Rome,
  Italy. As a child Conrad was surrounded by great art and by a passion for
  distant Dixie.

      When news of the Civil War reached Europe. the young man headed to
  Virginia to take up arms. Unable to reach that state, he settled for
  enlistment in a Kentucky regiment.

      As a soldier he was less than successful, wounding himself in a
  freak, unexplained accident after the April 1862 Battle of Shiloh. He
  sensibly decided to lay down the rifle and take up a tool that better
  suited his talents: the paintbrush. He went on to paint some fine scenes
  of his infantry regiment's life in camp and then, after being
  transferred east, a memorable series of studies of the Confederate
  defenses of Charleston, South Carolina. Those panels now adorn an entire
  wall of the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia.

      Chapman enjoyed little commercial success as an artist; in his
  later life, he was reduced to hand-tinting photographs to eke out a
  living. One of his works did achieve recognition during his lifetime,
  however. A view of his 3d Kentucky regiment encamped near Corinth,
  Mississippi, became famous when it was reproduced in 1871 by London
  printmaker Louis Zimmer as a handsome chromolithograph (bottom right)
  entitled "Confederate Camp Life during the Late American War."

      For years, historians have wondered precisely what original Chapman
  painting inspired the print. The closest known rendering was the rough
  little oil sketch of card-playing soldiers at left. The subsequent,
  expanded painting that provided the basis for the rest of the lithograph
  remained lost- until now.

      Recently, antiques dealer Leo Oaks discovered the long-lost Chapman
  original (center) in an artifact-crowded shed in rural Oregon. Still
  stretched on its original Southern pine wood, the canvas is inscribed
  on the reverse: "Camp of the 3d Kenty. Regt. (Confederate) near Corinth
  Miss./May 11, 1862/Hand Painted by C W. Chapman Comp. 1." That date is
  about a month after Shiloh; Chapman made his rough sketch while he was
  still recovering from his wound.

      Although the newly discovered painting needs some cleaning, the
  canvas's details remain surprisingly vivid. The use of light and shadow
  is gripping, and the character studies are evocative. The style is
  distinctively Chapman's.

      The work even includes a self-portrait of the haunted artist himself:
  the bored sentry leaning against his rifle at the extreme left. In
  producing the chromolithograph, Zimmer added a second soldier to keep him
  company- evidently he felt the figure Chapman had chosen to represent
  himself looked too lonely.   CWT

       Source:  CIVIL WAR TIMES - February 1996, p. 18

      Illustrations:  Chapman painted an oil sketch of card players in camp
  (top left- credit Valentine Museum, Richmond, Virginia) during his
  Confederate service. When he returned to Rome he made the recently
  discovered larger painting (above- credit Leo Oaks) based on the sketch.
  That painting, in turn, inspired Louis Zimmer's famous chromolithograph
  (right- credit Valentine Museum, Richmond, Virginia).


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