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Still Life with Fruit by Bryant Chapin

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This painting depicts an assortment of choice fruit – purple grapes with waxy bloom, a mottled pear, an orange, a Lombard plum, a velvety peach, and a crisp Baldwin apple – artfully arranged on a highly-polished tabletop. The composition is centered by the luscious orange, broken open and presented in a manner reminiscent of an anatomical fruit specimen, a bravura tactic that allowed the artist to fully exhibit his proficiency. The disparate textures of the pebbled orange skin, soft pith, and fuzzy central core are realistically captured, as is light, playing off the transparent, veined membrane that protects the juicy flesh of each segment. Chapin has erroneously been credited with introducing the open orange to the Fall River School; in fact, Robert Spear Dunning (1829-1905) depicted the fruit in this manner in his earliest works, long before Chapin began his career as an artist.

In this painting and indicative of changing fashion, Chapin substituted the elaborate, deeply carved Victorian table edges favored earlier in his career with a plain one, lending this piece a more contemporary feel.


  • Excerpt from a letter from Doug Borden to the FRHS curator: “In memory of Joan, my dear wife, who passed away a year ago July 4th. The Fall River Historical Society was a big part of her life … . “

Details of Painting

  • Artist : Bryant Chapin
  • Artist Dates : 1859-1927
  • Genre : Still Life
  • Year : 1910
  • Material : Oil on Canvas
  • Dimension : 15" x 11"
  • Object ID# : 2021.31.1

About the Artist

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Bryant Chapin

Fall River, Massachusetts

Bryant Chapin (American, 1859-1927), an artist best known for his still life paintings, was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, and was a life-long resident of the city.

Chapin was a student of Robert Spear Dunning (1829-1905), with whom he was very closely associated, and his still life paintings, particularly his early works, clearly exhibit Dunning’s influence. His maternal aunt was Sarah Augusta Borden née Washburn (1841-1911), noted as “the pioneer teacher of art” in Fall River and the “dean” of the city’s artists. Thus, it is possible that his earliest training came under the tutelage of his aunt Augusta.

Following an early career in engineering and banking, his desire to pursue art as a profession culminated in 1888, when he opened his first studio at the age of twenty-nine; he maintained a studio in his native city for the remainder of his life. He enjoyed a brief stint as an educator, serving as an instructor of freehand drawing at the Fall River Evening Drawing School, conducted as a division of the Fall River Public School System.

Chapin’s prolific output included still life, landscape, marine painting, and the occasional portrait, and he exhibited extensively throughout his career. Naturally shy and retiring, he possessed a character that was noted as “conscientious in the extreme.”

His still life work is divided into two painting styles: an assortment of fruit arranged on a highly polished tabletop, often with an elaborately carved-edge molding, and deep reflections; or pieces set outdoors, with fruit presented in direct contact with the ground, with a generalized, greenish-brown naturalistic background left vague to allow the viewer to focus on the subject. These plein air pieces often feature luscious, ripe berries spilling from juice-stained, wooden berry boxes.

Chapin journeyed extensively throughout New England and Canada to paint landscapes, and twice – in 1912 and 1913 – traveled abroad in search of subjects. Of his painterly, Impressionistic landscapes, a contemporary observer noted, he “imbued his paintings with a wistful mysticism which made them popular.” Fellow artist and friend, Hezekiah Anthony Dyer (1872-1943), stated: “Fall River did not quite appreciate Mr. Chapin’s [landscape] works, which require study to see the master touch.”

Chapin is recognized as one of the foremost artists of the Fall River School.

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  • Due to a major infrastructure project, the FRHS Museum will be closed beginning July 22, 2023. The Musem Shop is closed until further notice.