Jefferson David Chalfant

(American, 1856 - 1931)

Jefferson David Chalfant was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and spent much of his childhood in Lancaster County, where his father trained him as a cabinetmaker. By the time he and his family moved to Wilmington, Delaware, Chalfant had begun to paint landscapes and still life subjects. He soon began to specialize in trompe l'oeil still lifes in the tradition of William Michael Harnett (1848 1892), who had worked nearby in Philadelphia. He first exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia and the National Academy of Design in New York in 1887. Chalfant abruptly abandoned trompe l'oeil painting in 1990, and turned to the human form. Sponsored by the art patron Alfred Corning, Chalfant initiated this second phase of his career by studying in Paris for two years at the Académie Julian with William Adolphe Bouguereau (1825 1905) and Jules Joseph Lefebvre (1836 1911). Thereafter Chalfant painted genre subjects in the French tradition of academic realism and portraits. His penchant for military scenes earned him the title "the Meissonier of America." Reference: Joan H. Gorman, Jefferson David Chalfant, 1856–1931 [exh. cat., Brandywine River Museum] (Chadds Ford, PA, 1979).