Collection Highlight - James Chapin

James Chapin

Though the musicians have yet to draw bows across strings, the visual rhythms of this watercolor are fully engaged. James Chapin has composed a syncopation of alternating blacks and whites, melodious brown tones in hourglass form, and grey-blue music stands in staccato accents--all of which crescendo to the tall contrabass. Chapin shapes the figures and instruments with a subtle faceting, a cubist device used to show a subject from several viewpoints simultaneously. The soft geometry introduces a flickering liveliness, which adds movement and complexity without abstracting the scene of performing musicians.

The Chapin name is more widely popularized by the artist's son and grandson: jazz drummer Jim Chapin and folk singer Harry Chapin. However, James Chapin was a valuable contributor to the American Modernist movement. Acquisition of this work is part of a broader collection effort to help the KIA more completely tell the story of early-20th-century American art.

The Musicians was purchased with funds given by Elizabeth Upjohn Mason and Lowell B. Mason, Jr. in memory of Betty Hawk, a dedicated supporter of the KIA. Over the years, Betty volunteered in the gallery shop and as a docent, donated art to the collection, and was appreciated for her dry sense of humor and clear insight.

Karla Niehus
Associate Curator of Exhibitions