(American born England, 1808 - 1866)

Molino del Rey—Chapultepec in the Distance

Oil on canvas, 22 x 29 ¾ inches

REFERENCE: Thomas Chambers: American Marine and Landscape Painter, 1808-1869, Kathleen A. Foster, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2008

Chambers’ landscapes most often derived from tiny black-and-white print sources, which he enlarged, embellished and painted in bright and bold colors. Chambers found inspiration for a series of images of Mexico from the war that followed the United States’ annexation of Texas in 1845, as illustrated lithographs, etchings and engravings of the war were of great interest. This piece of Molino del Rey depicts the aftermath of a major victory of the American forces outside Mexico City in September of 1847. In the background is Chapultepec Castle and surrounding buildings which have been used as a Military Academy, an Imperial residence, a Presidential home, observatory, and presently, the National Museum of History.

About the Artist

(American born England, 1808 - 1866)

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.