This painting, “Music Lesson,” by Charles S. Chapman NA, was donated to the Morristown Public Library by Gloria Scott Johnson. I have learned so much because of this painting! Charles himself is standing, his wife Ada at the piano, and sitting on the left is his Aunt Julia, who was at Fords Theater the night President Lincoln was shot. Wowsa!
Can you see the signature? It states, “Charles S Chapman N.A.”. What does the NA mean? A little research at the library provided me with this answer:
One of the oldest art societies in the country, the prestigious National Academy of Design (NA) , was founded in 1825 by a group of 30 New York artists (including Samuel FB Morse, of Morse code fame) for the dual purpose of establishing a school of art and of holding annual exhibitions of contemporary art. The Academy has five categories (sculpture, oil, watercolor, architecture, printmaking) and only 25 full members in each category. In order to become part of the National Academy of Design, an artist must be recommended for membership by a current member and voted in by the group at large. When a “Full Member” (NA) dies, a replacement is chosen from the Associate Members (ANA). Some Associates never become Full Academicians. This information can be of utmost importance for the appraisal and verification of artwork. For example, because of his association with the National Academy, we can track the dates of artwork (even if undated) by the great etcher/aquatint artist Doel Reed of Taos, NM. His early works were signed “Doel Reed”; after he was voted an Associate of the NA in 1942, he added “ANA” to his signature. And following his becoming a Full Member in 1952, his signature was followed by “NA”.
Throughout the years, National Academy members have included some of America’s most prominent painters, sculptors, architects and printers including Paul Cadmus, Winslow Homer, Anna Hyatt Huntington, Jasper Johns, Andrew Wyeth and Robert Rauschenberg. Today, 450 contemporary artists are members of the Academy. Examples of their work are displayed in the National Academy of Design Museum in New York. Annual exhibitions are open to non-member artists across the nation and throughout the world.