Charles Chaplin was born in Les Andelys, Normandy in 1825; his mother was French but his father was art dealer of English descent. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts where he would later return to as a tutor.
He initially specialised in portraiture as well as landscape painting, often in the Auvergne region of France. The conventional realism of his early commissions gave way to genre subjects executed in a neo-rococo style reminiscent of Francois Boucher. He generally depicted beautiful Parisiennes during moments of solitude; dressing, washing or reading, in opulent surroundings. The subtle sensual atmosphere and brilliantly drafted textures in his painting soon caught the attention of Napoleon III and in particular the Empress Eugenie. Such patronage meant his popularity spread rapidly throughout Parisian high society bringing Chaplin considerable wealth and success.
He painted commissions for both the Tuileries and Elysee palaces, was a member of the Acedemie Royale de Peintres and in 1879 became a Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur before being elevated to an Officer in 1881. He exhibited regularly at the Paris Salon from 1845 as well as the Royal Academy in London. Contemporary artists admired his work including Manet who observed ‘he knew the smile of a woman’.
His latter years were mainly devoted to teaching and he ran a number of classes for women artists only, including the great American Impressionist Mary Cassatt. His son, Arthur Chaplin, succeeded him as an artist and he is buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.
His works can be found in museums in: Paris; Bordeaux; Reims; New York, The Metropolitan Museum; St. Petersburg, The Hermitage Museum.