Jefferson David Chalfant


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Painter. Particularly known for about a dozen trompe-l'oeil still lifes, mostly from the late 1880s, he also painted landscapes, conventional still lifes, genre scenes, and portraits. Born in Chester County, west of Philadelphia, he attended school in Lancaster and as a young man worked in Philadelphia as a cabinetmaker, specializing in fittings for railway cars. In 1879 he moved to Wilmington, Delaware. Without formal training, he began painting landscapes and still lifes in the early 1880s, becoming a full-time professional artist within a few years. Following the lead of William Michael Harnett, he perfected a deceptive illusionism in still lifes of refined austerity, depicting groupings of a few familiar articles hung on a vertical surface or reposing on a tabletop. Violin and Bow (Metropolitan Museum, 1889), inspired by a Harnett prototype, exhibits Chalfant's usual limited color range and subtle, silvery light in its rendering of only two objects hung against a paneled wall. From 1890 to 1892 Chalfant studied in Paris at the Académie Julian with Adolphe-William Bouguereau and Jules-Joseph Lefebvre. Although this experience only solidified the realistic technique he had honed on his own, it apparently broadened his ambitions, for he returned a figure painter. Subsequently he specialized in genre scenes, notably a series depicting craftsmen at work in their shops, which he depicted in minute detail. After 1900 he turned to portraiture as his main interest. A stroke in 1927 ended his painting career. He died at his home in suburban Wilmington.

Subjects: Art.

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