Frank Henry Shapleigh is one of the best-known artists who resided at the Hotel Ponce de Leon. Born in Boston 1842, Shapleigh studied at the Lowell Institute Drawing School and was a member of the Boston Art Club. In 1866 he traveled to Paris where he studied with Emile Lambinet, an artist associated with the French Barbizon School.
After serving in the Civil War from 1862-1863, Shapleigh traveled to Europe and California, where he painted impressive landscapes of Yosemite. After his honeymoon in the White Mountains of New Hampshire in 1873, from 1877 to 1893 Shapleigh occupied a summer studio at the prominent Crawford House resort where he sold his work to tourists. It is said that his paintings of the White Mountains were instrumental in the development of the location as a tourist destination.
Shapleigh began visiting Saint Augustine in 1886, two years before the Hotel Ponce de Leon would open. During that time he painted alongside Martin Johnson Heade and William Staples Drown. From 1888 or 1889 until 1892, Shapleigh was an artist-in-residence at the Hotel Ponce de Leon, occupying Studio # 1.
Shapleigh has been described as a “painter of places,” often inscribing the location on the back of the canvas. As many of his contemporaries, Shapleigh’s paintings were evocative of the French Barbizon School, though his depictions of the rugged landscape were decidedly “American.” His most successful works were those he created for his own private enjoyment; intimate paintings of old structures such as barns and mills, and boats along the coastline. In these paintings Shapleigh had a freer hand, and experimented with paint application, using an “impressionist brush stroke.”
Shapleigh died in New Hampshire in 1906. His scenes of St. Augustine have become more desirable recently as early examples of Florida ﬁne art.
Author: Whitney Warren Shafer
Sources: Frank Henry Shapleigh Art & Artist File, Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery Library, Washington D.C.; William G. Hennessy and Frederic A. Sharf, “Frank Henry Shapleigh, painter of places,” Antiques 80 (Nov. 1964), 450-452.