Born in England to a merchant sailor and a washerwoman, Thomas Chambers was the younger brother of the English marine painter, George Chambers, and part of an extended family of sailors and painters in Whitby, on the north coast of England.
Obscure in his own lifetime, Chambers gained fame in the twentieth century through a rare signed painting titled “Constitution” and the “Guerriere,” which identified his boldly expressive and flamboyant style. He became known for landscape and marine scenes, especially of the Hudson River from Albany and from New York City, all in naive, primitive style with bold color, rhythmic shapes, and strong contours applied with brush-work that made his work seem vital and lively. He differed from most painters of primitive style because, most likely influenced by his brother’s decorative style, he used large rhythmic shapes with light and shadow instead of flat forms. As more of Chambers’s work came to light, a sparse life story was constructed from census records, city directories, and a handful of dated paintings that document a career in the United States between 1832 and 1865. Chambers considered himself primarily a marine painter but his landscape paintings, usually based on contemporary print sources, seem to have been his most lucrative work.
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