Phew! I’ve been a tad lean on the posts lately because of a couple silent film-related projects that had to be done LIKE RIGHT NOW, but I’m getting back into the swing of things. Coming soon: at least one of three article ideas bouncing around in my head right now, an Obscure Film review, and a couple blogathons, too.
Ah, the funny places research rabbit holes will lead you to. Hey guys, did you know there was another Charlie Chaplin?
No, I’m not talking about imitators like Billy West. And not Charlie’s father, Charles Chaplin Senior, either. This guy was a highly-acclaimed artist of the 19th century, and his name was Charles Joshua Chaplin.
Charles Joshua Chaplin (maybe I’ll just call him CJ) was born in France in 1825. He studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and later taught there himself. He attempted to win the Prix de Rome, a French art scholarship, but was rejected due to having an English father. CJ would then travel through France studying art and enter landscapes and portraits in the Salon de Paris. He began to gain respect as an excellent portraitist, and when you look at his work today you can see why:
Often painting pictures of women and girls, CJ had a gift for depicting delicate flesh tones and satiny pastel fabrics. As he popularity grew he began exhibiting in other salons and at the Royal Academy in London, eventually catching the eye of Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III. By the 1840s he was one of the most famous artists in Europe.
CJ won several medals for his artwork and in 1881 he was made a Grand Officer of the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur. After a long, busy, successful career, he passed away in 1891. Aaaand he fell into a deep obscurity which he hasn’t recovered from today, despite his work still being in museums all over the world. And despite having the same name as, you know, CHARLIE CHAPLIN.
But here’s a funny bit of trivia: on June 5 1922 an art auction was held in Paris, and a landscape by a fellow named Charles Chaplin went up for bids. A surprisingly eager bidding war followed, and when it ended everyone found out to their dismay that the painting wasn’t something from the Little Tramp’s secret artistic period but the work of an obscure Victorian artist.
It’s surprising that CJ’s still forgotten today due to having that lucky name, but at least much of his beautiful work survives. The next time you’re in an art museum, keep your eyes open–one of his paintings may be there! And if anyone brags to you that their family owns an incredibly rare portrait painted by Charlie Chaplin himself, maybe do a little research first.
http://www.charles-chaplin.info/ (A site which no doubt gets a surprising amount of traffic for being about an obscure artist, heh heh.)
“Another Libel.” Camera!, Saturday, August 5, 1922.