Frank H. Shapleigh (1842-1906)

Frank H. Shapleigh (1842-1906)

Although born and raised in Boston, Frank Henry Shapleigh painted not only such local destinations as the White Mountains and the beaches of Cohasset, but was extremely well-traveled, even venturing as far west as Yosemite to capture the dramatic terrain with his oils. A student of the Lowell Institute of Drawing, Shapleigh enlisted in the 45th Massachusetts Regiment at the outbreak of the Civil War and served for nine months. After completing his service, he embarked upon the first of many great adventures, journeying to Paris in 1866 to study with Barbizon artist Emile Lambinet. After an extensive tour of Europe, he returned to Boston three years later. 

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Shapleigh maintained a studio in the city with his friend John Appleton Brown, and had a summer studio adjacent to the Crawford House in Crawford Notch, New Hampshire, where he was the artist in residence from 1877 until 1893. As 19th-century America’s premier wilderness vacation spot, the White Mountains drew artists and visitors from New York, Boston and other urban settings in search of respite from the confines and commotion of city life. Working from his Mount Washington location, Shapleigh became extremely successful, completing hundreds of scenes of the mountains for eager tourists seeking mementos from their stay. While traditional landscapes of popular vistas comprised much of his oeuvre, he also began painting interior scenes, usually rustic kitchens furnished with antiques as well as barn subjects captured from the inside looking out.

After Shapleigh’s 1870 marriage to a woman from the Cohasset-Scituate area, the south shore of Massachusetts became a prominent subject matter in addition to his popular White Mountain views. Forever an explorer, he traveled as far south as St. Augustine, Florida towards the end of his career, and began working primarily in watercolor. Shapleigh died in Jackson at his cottage “Maple Knoll” in 1906, surrounded by the landscape that he had celebrated for decades. 

References: Catherine Campbell, New Hampshire, A Dictionary of Nineteenth Century Artists of New Hampshire Mountain Landscapes (1985); Full of Facts and Sentiment: The Art of Frank H. Shapleigh (New Hampshire Historical Society, 1982); William G. Hennessy and Frederic Sharf, “Frank Henry Shapleigh, Painter of Places,” Antiques (Nov. 1961): 450-452.  

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