Jefferson Chalfant (1856 – 1931)
Born in Sadsbury Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, Jefferson Chalfant earned a distinguished reputation for portraits and for technical skill with “trompe l’oeil” [fool the eye] still lifes. His paintings were usually illuminated with glowing light, achieved by the subtle gradation of colors. He devoted the last thirty years of his life to portraits, and most of them are in private homes in Wilmington.
A part of the tradition from William Harnett, Chalfant’s still-life paintings often have old books in disarray and snuffed candles signifying the absence and temporary aspects of human life. In fact, it has been written that “his still lifes, in almost every instance, can be traced to a prototype by Harnett. His reliance on the older artist, however, does not detract from Chalfant’s exquisite craftsmanship” (The Reality of Appearance by Alfred Frankenstein).
Chalfant lived primarily in Wilmington, Delaware, and as a young man worked for a cabinet maker and decorator of railroad cars before committing himself to a career in fine art. In 1890, New York art patron Alfred Corning Clark sent him to Paris to study with Bouguereau and Jules Lefevre, but the experience seems to have had little influence on his style, which was already formed.
His art work can be divided into four categories: landscapes and still lifes from 1883 to 1886, “trompe l’oeil” from 1886 to 1890, genre painting, 1890 to 1907, and portraiture, 1907 to 1927.
Michael David Zellman, “300 Years of American Art”
Biography from the Archives of AskART.