Wenthrop Chandler


was a portrait painter who was born on his family’s farm on Chandler Hill, near the border of Woodstock and Thompson, Connecticut. After his parents died, hechose his brother-in-law as his guardian. Chandler’s whereabouts from 1762 until 1769 are unknown. A nineteenth-century historian wrote that Chandler studied portrait painting in Boston. While this has not been corroborated, Chandler probably received some professional training before he reappeared in Woodstock in 1770, possessing the skills to paint his earliest known portraits.Besides portraiture and landscape painting, Chandler also practiced house painting, ornamental painting, carving, and gilding. His self-portrait from 1770–1775 is aconfidently drawn, bust-length likeness, with strong lighting adding depth to the wellmodeled face, while the entire image is surrounded by a painted spandrel. The self-assured likeness of this young artist showed his ability to paint in an academic manner, and may indicate Boston influence as well.Chandler’s extended family, friends, and acquaintances in Connecticut and Massachusetts comprised his clientele. The artist’s earliest known works, portraits of Rev. Ebenezer Devotion and Martha Devotion of Scotland, Connecticut, dating from 1770, introduced elements that would become hallmarks of his style. Largecanvases often allowed Chandler to depict his sitters full-length. His predilection for showing subjects seated in rooms, with piercing gazes, and with considerableattention devoted to backgrounds, elaborately patterned costumes, and impressive draperies are also evident. The Devotions, along with the other ministers, judges, physicians, and landowners that Chandler painted, were prominent people whose rococo chairs, tilt-top tables, and libraries manifested their prosperity and refinement,while their likenesses exude their confidence and pride in their place in rural society.One landscape easel painting by Chandler is known, in addition to eight landscape overmantel paintings. Several of the latter depict imaginary views, while otherswere based, to some extent, on prints. His bright colors and stylized houses and trees display the sure hand of an experienced ornamental painter.Chandler married, and purchased additional land on Chandler Hill in 1772. His family would grow to include seven children, but by 1775 financial difficulties arosethat would plague him for the remainder of his life. He moved to Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1785, where he painted houses. After the death of his wife in 1789,Winthrop Chandler returned to Woodstock, where he died at age forty-three, leaving behind an artistic legacy that would await rediscovery and acknowledgment as the work of a provincial master.
See also
Fireboards and Overmantels; Painting, American Folk; Painting, Landscape
Chotner, Deborah, et al.
American Naive Paintings.
Washington, D.C., 1992.Lipman, Jean, and Tom Armstrong, eds.
American Folk Painters of Three Centuries.
New York, 1980