Thomas Chambers

(1808 - 1866)

Born in England, migrating to New York City in 1832. He lived in Boston from 1843, to 1851, then Albany from 1852 to 1857. He spent his last years in New York City. In later life he described himself as a marine artist, but is also well-known for his landscapes and is known to have painted portraits. Chambers is best-known for his rhythmic, bold colorful style, better suited to maritime scenes than the subtleties of landscape. He often did not sign or date his works and has been described as "enigmatic", a euphemism for a lack of documentary information. This dearth of evidence is what one would expect of a native artist who was not in any sense part of the academic art establishment.

Generally speaking, Chambers is classed as a Hudson River School artist, as many of his landscapes were wilderness and agricultural views of the mid-19th century. Chambers is often confused with his namesake Thomas Chambers, a professionally-trained English genre painter who flourished 1849-1858. Their styles have absolutely nothing in common.

Thomas Chambers was born in London in 1808, and emigrated to the United States in 1832. A painter of both landscapes and marine scenes, Chambers did not confine his artistic subjects to views that he knew firsthand but made liberal use of both his imagination and popular engraved images. Chambers is known to have looked not only to the Englishman William H. Bartlett's views, executed for Nathaniel Parker Willis' volume American Scenery (London, 1840), but also to Asher B. Durand's and Jacques Gerard Milbert's prints as the basis for several of his compositions. A number of Chambers' depictions of naval battles during the War of 1812, are based upon engravings, at least two from prints after Thomas Birch.

For the years 1834 and 1840, he was listed as a landscape or marine painter in the New York City directory. From 1843 to 1851, he lived in Boston, then moved to Albany, where he remained until 1857. He was subsequently listed in city directories in New York, 1858-1859; Boston, 1860-1861, and New York again, 1862-1866. After this time there appears to be no record of him, and his death date is unknown.

British born American Landscape Painter associated with the Hudson River School. Artistically and stylistically influenced by the following painters - William H. Bartlett, Thomas Birch, Thomas Cole, and Asher B. Durand. Chambers is best known for his charmingly naive marine paintings and landscapes. Humble and contented with his talent, Chambers rarely entered competitions seeking recognition. He infused his art with romantic drama and a playful, fun sense of design. Many of his greatest masterworks were based on prints he happened upon although. He often spent days and weeks trekking across mountain ranges with sketchbook in tow, sketching outdoors. His greatest masterworks were painted in the Connecticut valley. Many of the paintings from these years went unsigned and undated.

The Hudson River School - 1825-1875

Throughout the history of the United States, the American wilderness has been fundamentally important in creating a national identity. The Hudson River School was a mid-19th century American art movement founded by Thomas Cole in 1825. Using the river as inspiration, these painters were celebrated for their realistic depictions of the regions stunning and distinctive landscape. Their radiant, majestic style was influenced by European romanticism. The artists shared common design aesthetics uniting them as a school despite their distinctive styles. The painters focused on the American wilderness, particularly the Hudson River Valley as well as the Catskill Mountains and Adirondack Mountains. The paintings were spectacular and dramatic reflecting the wilderness environment. The artists moved their studios out of doors and sketched directly from nature focusing on the drama of light and shadow. Many paintings depict a rugged landscape, dramatic sunrise or ominous storm clouds brewing in the distance. The works were painstakingly detailed and celebrate God's divine handiwork in nature.

The mid 1850s was a time of unprecedented development for the young nation, and the Hudson River painters depicted the vastness and beautify of a country proud of its natural resources. They embraced nature and showed a remarkable attention to detail within the natural landscape. This school popularized the idea of Manifest Destiny and came to symbolize American vitality, independence and nationalism. Today, works by the Hudson River school artists are treasured as the first uniquely American school of art and for their beauty and significance to art, history and culture.

View artist's work: Thomas Chambers 1808-1866 [new window view]