James Ormsbee Chapin

From The Harry Chapin Wiki

James Ormsbee Chapin (July 9, 1887-July 1975) was an American artist of the American School of Painting. Chapin is the father or big band drummer Jim Chapin and grandfather of Harry Chapin.

Personal life

James Ormsbee Chapin was born in West Orange, New Jersey, on July 9, 1887. Chapin married Abigail Beal Forbes in 1918. Their only son James Forbes Chapin was born in 1919. They divorced shortly after their son was born.[1] Chapin met Mary Fischer while teaching in California in the late 1930's. They married soon after and had two sons. In 1969 the Chapin and his wife moved to Toronto. Chapin became a Canadian citizen shortly before his death in 1975.[2]


Art education

At age sixteen, Chapin worked during the day and took evening art classes at Cooper Union and later at the Art Students League. In his early twenties, he left to study in Europe at the Royal Academy in Antwerp, Belgium. He later studied in Paris. Cezanne was one of influences during this period.

Early art career (1912-1924)

Chapin returned to New York and took his first professional job was as a commercial illustrator. During this time, he met Robert Frost while visiting his publishers, Henry Holt & Co., for whom he designed books.

The Marvin Farm years (1924-1929)

In 1924 he left New York, for the rural New Jersey. There he lived on the farm of the Marvin family. Chapin spent the next four and a half years painting the Marvin family.[3]

Later years (1929- )

In 1935 Chapin accepted a one-day-a-week job at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts as instructor to the advanced portrait class. In the late 1930s, he accepted a teaching position in California.

Chapin had success during this time as a commercial illustrator accepting various commissions. His work was also featured on the covers of major national publications of the day including Scribners and Time.


  • Temple Gold Medal - Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
  • Logan Portrait Award - by the Art Institute of Chicago


  1. "James Forbes Chapin: Jazz Musician, Drum Educator, Music Instruction Author". Sag Harbor Express (Sag Harbor, Florida). February 19, 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-18 . 
  2. "James Chapin papers, 1926-1995: A Finding Aid to the James Chapin papers". Helen Farr Sloan Library (Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, Delaware: Helen Farr Sloan Library). Retrieved 2010-06-18 . 
  3. Anderson, Sherman Reed (January 1, 2008). "James Ormsbee Chapin and the Marvin Paintings: An Epic of the American Farm". KU ScholarWorks (University of Kansas): 233. Retrieved 2010-06-18 .