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'Chapman's Charleston' exhibit opens at South Carolina State Museum

This placard givesz a brief biography of Conrad Chapman
This placard givesz a brief biography of Conrad Chapman
photo by author

An exhibit of Civil War paintings has opened at the S.C. State Museum. The exhibit, "Chapman's Charleston" is composed of paintings by Conrad Wise Chapman (1842-1910).

According to JoAnn Zeise, the Museum's history curator, Chapman was born in Washington, D.C. but lived primarily in Rome, Italy. According to Zeise, Chapman's father was an artist, also, and American artists generally could make more money living abroad at that time..

Chapman, an "unrepentant Confederate", according to Zeise, left Italy and came to the States at the time the war was starting, he served first with a unit from Kentucky and later transferred to a Virginia unit where his family had roots. Between September, 1863 and March, 1864, Chapman was stationed in Charleston.

While there, Chapman was enlisted by Gen. Pierre G.T. Beauregard to draw the defenses of Charleston. It was out of those drawings that the paintings in this exhibit were made.

Chapman's paintings are very realistic, "if he didn't see it, he didn't paint it." said Zeise. She also said that the exhibit "provides art from a southern perspective. Which was not very popular after the war." Zeise explained that after the war, Southern art, with its Confederate flags, etc. was not very popular. Chapman held a show in New York and failed to sell even one painting.

For distant scenes, Chapman would paint from a high place, such as the bell tower of St. Michael's Church in Charleston. A telescope like the one he would have used is on exhibit in the gallery.

"Chapman's Charleston can be seen on the fourth floor of the Museum and can be seen for the regular museum admission. The exhibit opened on July 12 and will run until January 18, 2015.

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