Minerva Chapman was educated at Mount Holyoke College and later studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1886 she traveled to Europe and eventually settled in Paris, where she attended the Académie Julian, painting under the guidance of the American teacher Charles Lasar. Chapman was a prolific artist in many media but earned most of her professional recognition as a painter of portrait miniatures, exhibiting more than one hundred works between 1899 and 1926. As a measure of her success as a miniaturist, she became one of the first American women to be elected a member of the prestigious Salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1905. She returned to the United States in 1926 and lived in Palo Alto, California, where she won numerous awards and gold medals from the California Society of Miniature Painters.