In 1875, at the age of seventeen, Joseph De Camp began his art career by studying in Munich under Frank Duveneck. The Dutch Masters, whose work he saw in Holland, especially that of Jan Vermeer, influenced many of his future paintings, most often female figures near a window, bathed in the light from the exterior.
He returned to Boston in 1880, and established a career as a teacher and portrait painter. De Camp had been a prominent member of The Boston School of painting, which focused in realistic style primarily on figural subjects of beauty, elegance and refinement. A De Camp portrait in this style and one of particular significance is that of Theodore Roosevelt, which he painted for Roosevelt's Harvard classmates. Even this formal portrait shows the influence of Vermeer in the broad expanse of wall and the use of atmospheric light which serves as a backdrop to silhouette Roosevelt.
Because portrait painting was his focus, only relatively few landscapes by De Camp are found. However, this circumstance likely is affected by the studio fires that occurred in Boston in the Harcourt Building in 1904, where hundreds of paintings were destroyed.
De Camp also was an art educator with a long-time teaching
assignment at the Massachusetts Normal Art School in Boston.
Other teaching assignments were the Boston Museum School of
Fine Art and the Pennsylvania Academy.