Winthrop Chandler (1747-1790) is the first known American-born artist to paint American landscapes that still exist today. Chandler was born in 1747 on Chandler Hill in Connecticut. A history of Worcester states that Chandler studied the art of painting in Boston. Chandler lived all his life in Woodstock, except for his last five years in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Chandler’s two earliest landscapes, done before his apprenticeship, were painted on plaster, circa 1758-1761.
In around 1767–1769, after his apprenticeship was completed, Chandler painted a landscape overmantel (an ornament or panel situated above a mantelpiece) for Elisha Hurlbut, in Connecticut.
In 1770, Chandler painted a landscape on canvas of the homestead of General Timothy Ruggles of Hardwick, Massachusetts. This is the first American landscape by a known American-born painter with a documented date.
In about 1776–1777, Chandler painted a fireboard showing the “Battle of Bunker Hill”—the first American landscape of a historical event painted by an American.
Chandler painted a landscape overmantel for Reverend Putnam of the Congregational Church of Pomfret.
Chandler was trained to modify nature to enhance the drama in the landscape. While European painters used Gothic ruins to increase the perception of antiquity, in the Putnam overmantel Chandler showed antiquity and mortality by inserting a large, twisted dead tree.
Unfortunately, Chandler’s most active period, 1769–1789, coincided with an economic depression that spanned the American Revolution and its immediate aftermath. His financial difficulties began in 1775, with the start of the war, and continued for the rest of his life. He relied mainly on a network of family and friends, who commissioned about thirty-five portraits and about a dozen landscapes. He supplemented his meager income by painting houses and furniture and by gilding frames.
Source: Winthrop Chandler
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