Clarence Chatterton, born in 1880 in Newburgh, New York, made an auspicious entry into the world of art: he trained with the National Academy masters Robert Henri and William Meritt Chase, alongside gifted pupils like George Bellows and Edward Hopper, among others. His first show was at the renowned Wildenstein Gallery in New York City, where he shared wall space with Toulouse Lautrec, and had the great distinction of being the first American to have exhibited there.
Despite these lofty beginnings, Chatterton was a unpretentious man with a simple philosophy: “an artist should express himself with as little fuss as possible in a frank, uncompromising manner." A critic for The New York Times stated, "Mr. Chatterton's point of view is characterized by certain serene enjoyment of actualities that amount almost to a philosophy of life. His pictures of New England villages and streets, of meadows and trees and white meeting houses induce something of the same reaction that one gets from reading Thoreau and Emerson. His manner of setting down his reactions has the integrity of his point of view which is characterized by directness and candor.”
This straight-forward attitude was refreshingly novel at the time. So too was the audience of young women at Vassar College to whom he imparted these ideas; Chatterton being the first artist-in-residence and founder of the studio art program. Not only did he believe that paintings should be pleasing, rather than overly studied, but he held that art education should be accessible even to those who were not enrolled at prestigious institutions like the National Academy of Design. He taught painting to generations of Vassar students, from 1915 until 1948, when he was made Professor Emeritus.
In 1918, the artist made his first visit to New England. He and his friend Edward Hopper journeyed to Monhegan Island, passing through Ogunquit on the way. Evidently Chatterton was impressed by the artist’s colony in Ogunquit, for he spent every summer there for the next thirty years. Chatterton continued to paint scenes of small town life for the rest of his career, working mostly in Maine and the Hudson River Valley. His uncomprimising, impressionist style did great justice to the natural beauty of his subject matter.
Chatterton was a member of the Chicago Water Color Club, and the Salmagundi Club in New York, where he won the Isador Prize for best watercolor in 1913. His work has been exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in Philadelphia, the National Academy of Design in New York, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C, Rockefeller Center, MacDowell Club and at the Wildenstein, Macbeth, and Chapellier Galleries also in New York City.
Many important private collections and institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY, The Sheldon Museum, Lincoln, NE, The Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, ME and many others own works by Chatterton.