Francis Chapin was born in Bristolville, Ohio. He graduated from Washington and Jefferson College. A year later he enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago where he spent six years and won the Bryan Lathrop Fellowship in his last year. He chose to remain in Chicago where he became known as the “Dean of Chicago Painters.” It wasn’t until 1929 that he hosted his first pair of one-man shows.
Chapin was an instructor at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1929 to 1947. In 1932, Chapin was approached by Grant Wood and accepted a faculty position at the Stone City Art Colony, where he taught lithography for two summers. From 1934 to 1938, he taught at the Art Institute of Chicago’s summer art school at Saugatuck, Michigan, and he served as director of the summer school from 1941-1945. He was also the Artist-in-Residence at the Old Sculpin Gallery for many years.
Among Chapin’s notable showings were at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. His works are in permanent collections at the Art Institute of Chicago, Brooklyn Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Syracuse University, and other museums.
Chapin’s life as an artist in the emerging modern movements in America and his life as a teacher influenced many artists who enjoy bold colors loosely applied to scenes of harbors, city scenes, and landscapes. Though his bravura brushwork would cause some to think his paintings were done very spontaneously, the fact is that he mixed all of his colors on location on a very large palette. Once he had worked out his color harmonies he would then look back at his subject and move quickly across the canvas with his brush.