Famed Artist Lived in Middle Island

December 26, 1963

 Famed Artist Lived in M.I.

By Thomas Bayles

Famed Artist Lived in Middle Island
Alonzo Chappel

Alonzo Chappel was a famous artist of the past century and was born in New York City in 1829.  At 12 years of age he was painting portraits of $10 each, but portrait painting was not his ambition. Young as he was, he had already acquired a taste for reading history, and in this field he found plenty of material for his inexperienced brush to try its skill upon.

When he was 21 he was married to Almira Stewart by the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher in Brooklyn, where his family now lived. He now redoubled his efforts and painted early and late.

Goupil's old gallery on Broadway was in those days the popular place for the exhibition of paintings and it was there that several of Mr. Chappel's paintings were observed by a Rev. Magoon of New York, who introduced him to the publishing house of Martin, Johnson and Fry, who made a specialty of finely illustrated works.  He was at once engaged to paint the plates for a book in the course of preparation, and his work was so satisfactory that he remained in the employ of that concern during the rest of his active life.

Among the works illustrated by him were "Spencer's History of the United States". "Schroeder's Life and Times of Washington”, “ Duyckink's National Portrait Gallery", "Duyckink's History of the Civil War”, and several others.

Besides painting the illustrations for these large books he found time to paint “The Last Hours of Lincoln," and another picture was one with 75 figures representing a scene connected with the first celebration of Independence day in New York. Another famous painting of his was the "Battle of Long Island", which contained over -200 figures. The conflict is represented as raging about the old mill at Gowanus, a locality consecrated for all time by the blood of many patriots.

Mr. Chappel seemed to understand a subject completely and to be possessed of the ability to portray the subjects of his imagination with striking effect.  No written labels were necessary to explain the character of individual figures.

In August 1869, after the death of his wife, Mr. Chappel moved to Middle Island and purchased  a farm east of Artist Lake, where he built a beautiful homestead.  Here he lived and continued his work of painting together with his second wife, who was a sister of E.D. Carpenter of New York and their four children.

He died December 4, 1887 and was buried in the Middle Island cemetery opposite the Presbyterian Church.

Two of the large books "National Portrait Gallery," illustrated by his paintings are in the possession of the writer.

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