The painter and teacher George W. Chambers was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1857. Little is known of his life until 1880 when he entered the Paris studio of Jean Léon Gérôme, the French classicist. He remained in Paris until 1884, studying with Gérôme and also with Julien Dupré, whose Barbizon style influenced his early work. Chambers exhibited at the Paris Salon from 1883 until 1885, though by 1885 he was associated with the St. Louis School of Fine Arts, and may have been teaching there. He subsequently moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and took a position at the Watkins Institute, founded in 1885 and still active as a school of art and design. In the late 1890s he joined the staff of the Nashville School of Art.
Chamber’s landscapes of rural Tennessee were informed by the French Barbizon tradition, but some of his work reflects an aesthetic developed after his training in Paris. The Four Seasons is typical of this development in its frieze-like arrangement, decorative coloration, and allegorical subject. The women are personifications of the four seasons, but they also evoke the stages of life from youth to old age, the latter represented by the black shrouded figure at the right.
Integral to this work is the frame that surrounds it. Each image is painted on canvas, mounted on panel, and the four panels are incorporated into a whole by the use of a simply carved frame. Chambers’ interest in decoration suggests an alliance with the Arts and Crafts movement, which surfaced in America in the late nineteenth century and promoted the unification of fine arts and crafts. Chambers produced at least one other seasonal decoration, four vertical panels of birds on branches, in low relief and subdued colors, painted in 1900. (NRS)
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