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The Baptism of Pocahontas by John Gadsby Chapman - Essay Example

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Both "The Warning of Powhatan" and "The Crowning of Powhatan" were displayed at the National Academy of Design in New York in the year 1836. His Landing at Jamestown and The Crowning of Powhatan were later imprinted in the 1840s for accepted magazines. Chapman's companion Henry Alexander Wise had set up a decree in the United States House of Representatives in the year 1834 to structure a committee to choose American artists to complete the United States Capitol Rotunda cycle commenced by John Trumbull. On 28 February 1837 the Select Committee opted Robert Weir, John Vanderlyn, Henry Inman, and John G. Chapman to paint sight from American history. According to his agreement, Chapman entertained $10,000 in four payments. The completed painting, The Baptism of Pocahontas, was revealed on 30 November 1840 and was escorted by a leaflet elucidating the artist's approach to the theme and a concise history of Pocahontas as well as the Jamestown colony.
John Gadsby Chapman sought to use the Jamestown legend as a paradigm of the confrontation between English settlers and Native Americans. His Baptism of, installed in the U.S. Capitol rotunda in 1840, combined historical mythmaking, concerns about the fate of the "noble savage," and respect for the Virginia heritage. Like Custis, the artist had deep roots in the Virginia soil; his father, Charles, came from an old Prince William County family; his maternal grandfather, John Gadsby, owned the famous Alexandria tavern that is now a Virginia landmark. Born near there in 1808, Chapman grew up with Mount Vernon and its powerful Washington legacy a few miles to the south and the newly constructed federal city taking shape upriver on the Potomac. Both were to have a profound effect on his future ambitions. During a brief and futile attempt to study law in Winchester, Virginia, he formed a close friendship with future Virginia congressman and Governor Henry Alexander Wise2. In 1828, the young artist toured Europe, there enriching his artistic education while making friends with such notables as James Fenimore Cooper, Samuel F.B. Morse, and the sculptor Horatio Greenough.
Chapman might have taken advantage of such influential friends to help him launch his career in New York upon his return in 1831. Instead he chose to settle in Virginia, where he eked out scant living painting portraits. (Alexandria Gazette, 1832) During his youth, Chapman had witnessed the rebuilding of the Capitol after its destruction during the War of 1812 and had later watched John Trumbull install his four Revolutionary War paintings in the rotunda. Hoping one day to create a similar "national picture" for the Capitol, he began to contact influential politicians and exhibit his paintings around the District of Columbia3.
By this time, Chapman had moved to New York City, where he was establishing a creditable reputation as a printmaker and illustrator. As soon as he returned home, the artist began painting episodes from the Pocahontas saga, the first being two small canvases -- The Coronation of Powhatan and The Warning of Pocahontas -- which he exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1836. In 1837, he composed his own version of the famous rescue scene, Pocahontas Saving the Life of Captain John Smith and between 1839 and 1841; he ...Show more


The main focus of the paper is on the analysis of the painting "The Baptism of Pocahontas". The paper starts with giving a brief biography of the artist of this painting, John Gadsby Chapman. After which the focus is brought on the painting, initially starting with the background of the painting and then how this painting came about…
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The Baptism of Pocahontas by John Gadsby Chapman essay example
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