The painting Melons and Grapes (1957.11.5) came to the National Gallery with only the name "Chipman". According to the caption in Panorama 1 (April 1946), 76, an inscription on the back of the painting indicated that Chipman painted the scene from memory in winter time. No inscription was recorded by Alberto Angeli, who lined the picture in 1950, nor is any mention made in the other donor records. It seems likely that the Panorama caption refers not to an inscription on the painting but rather to the inscription on the back of a small photograph of a man which apparently accompanied the painting when the donors purchased it. The photograph, though captioned "Nehemiah Cobb" in pencil on the front, is inscribed in ink on the reverse: "Mr Chipman the one that painted the picture of the fruit watermellon [sic] and others in winter with nothing to look at for guide." Above this is penciled "Jan. 1832," and below it "OPS [Old Print Shop, owned by Harry Shaw Newman] 846." The Old Print Shop envelope containing the photograph is labeled "Photograph of the Artist Chipman." It has not been possible to determine if this photograph actually depicts Chipman or whether the date 1832 has any relationship to the painting. Furthermore, it is not known when the photograph first became associated with the painting, or whether the name Chipman was assigned to the painting because of the photograph or for some other reason.
Efforts to locate such an artist have been unsuccessful, especially given the absence of a first name or initial; censuses indicate that the name was common in various states around the mid-nineteenth century. No other works by this hand have been identified. [This is an edited version of the artist's biography published, or to be published, in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]
Chotner, Deborah, with contributions by Julie Aronson, Sarah D. Cash, and Laurie Weitzenkorn. American Naive Paintings. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1992: 68.