Samuel Roscoe Chaffee
(1850 – 1913)
S.R. Chaffee is an artist who left his legacy as a painter of watercolors. You can find little snippets of his life in newspaper articles, the Providence Art Club archive and the Rhode Island Historical society manuscripts department. It is in his volume of watercolors that you encounter in antique stores and auctions that give better insight into the artist. Carefully rendered watercolors of birch trees, streams and wooded haunts bespeak of an artist who loved to paint his environs and achieved a good technical command of the medium given that he was totally self-taught.
What we know of Chaffee is that he seemed to posses the artistic talent in the family and after a number of struggles, including the unsuccessful ownership of a shoe store; Chaffee opened a studio in the Howard building in Providence in 1881 and began to paint. He did become a member of the Providence Art Club and participated in an important exhibition at the providence Art club in 1897 with Rhode Island artistic icons E.M. Bannister, G.A. Whitaker and C.W. Stetson.
S. R. Chaffee’s watercolors are known for their clarity and composition. A review of his 1890 Tilden an Thurber Exhibition by the local art critics notes” He takes naturally to soft, floating outlines, adding a rich harmonized color to some of the brighter landscapes.”
Much of what we know of the artist comes from the genealogy records of Senator John Chaffee. S.R. Chaffee was born in Swansea Mass and educated in the District Schools of Seekonk. He left home at 14 to become a clerk in the shoe store Allen j. Brown. Where he remained until 1877. He bought out the business but failed and was forced to sell in 1881 whereby he became and artist. He had no children. The family wrote “ he always possessed a natural talent; after many usual trials ands struggles, his work secured a standing among picture lovers and dealers in the country.
Today Chaffee is recognized as one of the early participants to support himself as an artist in Providence’s emerging art colony in the late 19th century.
The 1914 Providence City Directory lists him as having died April 1, 1913. The Providence Journal "Death" notices of April 2, 3, 4 in 1913 confirm his April 1 death. No obituary has been found.
Catherine Little Bert