Wed . 18 Dec 2018

William Merritt Chase

william merritt chase, william merritt chase paintings
William Merritt Chase November 1, 1849 – October 25, 1916 was an American painter, known as an exponent of Impressionism and as a teacher He is also responsible for establishing the Chase School, which later would become Parsons The New School for Design


  • 1 Early life and training
  • 2 Chase's roles: father, artist, teacher
  • 3 European Summer tours
  • 4 Style and subject matter
    • 41 Portrait painting
    • 42 Landscapes
    • 43 Still lifes
  • 5 Honors and late career
  • 6 Gallery
  • 7 See also
  • 8 References
  • 9 External links

Early life and trainingedit

Self portrait, 1915–16, oil on canvas, Richmond Art Museum

William Merritt Chase was born on November 1, 1849, in Williamsburg now Nineveh, Indiana, to the family of Sarah Swain and David H Chase, a local businessman Chase's father moved the family to Indianapolis in 1861, and employed his son as a salesman in the family business Chase showed an early interest in art, and studied under local, self-taught artists Barton S Hays and Jacob Cox

After a brief stint in the Navy, Chase's teachers urged him to travel to New York to further his artistic training He arrived in New York in 1869, met and studied with Joseph Oriel Eaton for a short time, then enrolled in the National Academy of Design under Lemuel Wilmarth, a student of the famous French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme

In 1870, declining family fortunes forced Chase to leave New York for St Louis, Missouri, where his family was then based While he worked to help support his family he became active in the St Louis art community, winning prizes for his paintings at a local exhibition He also exhibited his first painting at the National Academy in 1871 Chase's talent elicited the interest of wealthy St Louis collectors who arranged for him to visit Europe for two years, in exchange for paintings and Chase's help in securing European art for their collections

"Keying Up" – The Court Jester, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

In Europe, Chase settled at the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, a long-standing center of art training that was attracting increasing numbers of Americans and attracted Chase because it had fewer distractions than Paris1 He studied under Alexander von Wagner and Karl von Piloty, and befriended American artists Walter Shirlaw, Frank Duveneck, and Joseph Frank Currier

In Munich, Chase employed his rapidly burgeoning talent most often in figurative works that he painted in the loosely brushed style popular with his instructors In January 1876 one of these figural works, a portrait titled "Keying Up" – The Court Jester now in the collection of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts was exhibited at the Boston Art Club; later that year it was exhibited and won a medal at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, and this success gained Chase his first fame

Chase traveled to Venice, Italy in 1877 with Duveneck and John Henry Twachtman before returning to the United States in the summer of 1878, a highly skilled artist representing the new wave of European-educated American talent Home in America, he exhibited his painting Ready for the Ride collection of the Union League Club with the newly formed Society of American Artists in 1878 He also opened a studio in New York in the Tenth Street Studio Building, home to many of the important painters of the day He was a member of the Tilers, a group of artists and authors, among whom were some of his notable friends: Winslow Homer, Arthur Quartley and Augustus Saint Gaudens

In 1881, friend and artist William Preston Phelps travelled back to Europe to team up with Chase to go on a working tour of Italy, Venice, Capri then back to Germany2

Chase's roles: father, artist, teacheredit

Studio Interior, c 1882, Brooklyn Museum Lydia Field Emmet, 1892, oil on canvas, Brooklyn Museum

Chase cultivated multiple personae: sophisticated cosmopolitan, devoted family man, and esteemed teacher Chase married Alice Gerson in 18873 and together they raised eight children during Chase's most energetic artistic period His eldest daughters, Alice Dieudonnee Chase and Dorothy Bremond Chase, often modeled for their father

In New York City, however, Chase became known for his flamboyance, especially in his dress, his manners, and most of all in his studio At Tenth Street, Chase had moved into Albert Bierstadt's old studio and had decorated it as an extension of his own art Chase filled the studio with lavish furniture, decorative objects, stuffed birds, oriental carpets, and exotic musical instruments The studio served as a focal point for the sophisticated and fashionable members of the New York City art world of the late 19th century By 1895 the cost of maintaining the studio, in addition to his other residences, forced Chase to close it and auction the contents

Mrs Chase in Pink, Figge Art Museum

In addition to his painting, Chase actively developed an interest in teaching Initially he took on private pupils, among his first being Dora Wheeler, a student from 1879 to 1881 who became a professional artist and a lifelong friend Dora's mother Candace Wheeler wrote in her memoirs of Chase's contagious enthusiasm, "the most generous of teachers, not only giving exhaustively of his stored knowledge of how to do things, but fostering as well the will to do it Later, somewhat against his will, he was persuaded to take charge of an art-school at Shinnecock Hills, Long Island “4

At the instigation of Mrs William Hoyt, Chase opened the Shinnecock Hills Summer School on eastern Long Island, New York in 18914 He taught there until 1902 Chase adopted the plein air method of painting, and often taught his students in outdoor classes He also opened the Chase School of Art in 1896, which became the New York School of Art two years later with Chase staying on as instructor until 1907 Chase taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1896 to 1909; the Art Students League from 1878 to 1896 and again from 1907 to 1911; and the Brooklyn Art Association in 1887 and from 1891 to 1896 Along with Robert Henri, who became a rival instructor, Chase was the most important teacher of American artists around the turn of the 20th century In addition to his instruction of East Coast artists like George Bellows, Louise Upton Brumback, Kate Freeman Clark, Mariette Leslie Cotton, Charles Demuth, Silas Dustin, Lydia Field Emmet, George Pearse Ennis, Marsden Hartley, Annie Traquair Lang, John Marin, M Jean McLane, Georgia O'Keeffe, Leopold Seyffert, Elizabeth Sparhawk-Jones, Joseph Stella and Edward Charles Volkert, he had an important role in influencing California art at the turn of the century, especially in interactions with Arthur Frank Mathews, Xavier Martinez and Percy Gray

European Summer toursedit

After stopping his work at Shinnecock Hills, Chase began taking groups of students overseas in the summer months to tour the important European art centers In 1903 they visited Haarlem in the Netherlands, where Chase was inspired by a schutterstuk by Frans Hals He made a self-portrait of himself in the role of one of Hals' schutters, choosing his look-alike Johan Claesz Loo featured in The Officers of the St Adrian Militia Company in 16335

Style and subject matteredit

Chase worked in all media He was most fluent in oil painting and pastel, but also created watercolor paintings and etchings SGW Benjamin said of his style in a contemporary review:

A noble sense of color is perceptible in all his works, whether in the subtle elusive tints of flesh, or in the powerful rendering of a mass of scarlet, as in his notable painting of the "Court Jester" In the painting of a portrait he endeavors, sometimes very successfully, to seize character, although occasionally rather too impressionist in style6

Portrait paintingedit

A Friendly Call, 1895 National Gallery of Art

He is perhaps best known for his portraits, and his sitters including some of the most important men and women of his time His portrait of painter Lydia Field Emmet in 1892 depicts Emmet in a pose typically reserved for men in old masters' paintings Emmet's hand is on her hip and she looks over her shoulder at the audience1

Chase also frequently painted his wife Alice and their children, sometimes in individual portraits, and other times in scenes of domestic tranquility: at breakfast in their backyard, or relaxing at their summer home on Long Island, the children playing on the floor or among the sand dunes of Shinnecock In an 1895 painting titled A Friendly Call, his wife is depicted wearing a yellow dress and entertaining a caller dressed in white7


Landscape: Shinnecock, Long Island, c 1896, Princeton University Art Museum

In addition to painting portraits and full-length figurative works, Chase began painting landscapes in earnest in the late 1880s His interest in landscape art may have been spawned by the landmark New York exhibit of French impressionist works from Parisian dealer Durand-Ruel in 1886 Chase is best remembered for two series of landscape subjects, both painted in an impressionist manner The first was his scenes of Prospect and Central Parks in New York; the second were his summer landscapes at Shinnecock Chase usually featured people prominently in his landscapes Often he depicted woman and children in leisurely poses, relaxing on a park bench, on the beach, or lying in the summer grass at Shinnecock The Shinnecock works in particular have come to be thought of by art historians as particularly fine examples of American Impressionism

In 1903 Chase rented the Villa La Meridiana near Careggi, Florence, to which he would return to paint each summer Later he bought the Villa Silli, south of the city

Still lifesedit

Still Life, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Chase continued to paint still lifes throughout his career as he had done since his student days Decorative objects filled his studios and homes, and his interior figurative scenes frequently included still life images He was particularly adept at capturing the effect of light on metallic surfaces such as copper bowls and pitchers Perhaps Chase's most famous still life subject was dead fish, which he liked to paint against dark backgrounds, limp on a plate as though fresh from a fishmonger's stall He was known for purchasing the dead fish at the market, painting them quickly, and then returning them before they spoiled1

Honors and late careeredit

Portrait of Chase by John Singer Sargent 1902 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Chase won many honors at home and abroad, was a member of the National Academy of Design, New York, and from 1885 to 1895 was president of the Society of American Artists He became a member of the Ten American Painters after John Henry Twachtman died

Chase's creativity declined in his later years, especially as modern art took hold in America, but he continued to paint and teach into the 1910s During this period Chase taught such up and coming young artists as Wilhelmina Weber Furlong,8 Arthur Hill Gilbert, and Edward Hopper

At Carmel-by-the-Sea from July through September 1914 Chase taught his last summer class, his largest with over one hundred pupils and his most problematic His former student, Jennie V Cannon, in conjunction with Chase’s business manager C P Townsley and Carmel’s co-founder Franklin Devendorf, persuaded the esteemed painter to visit the Pacific Coast with promises of generous financial returns9 Suffering from declining health cirrhosis of the liver, Chase took the opportunity shortly after his arrival to meet with the directors of San Francisco’s forthcoming Panama-Pacific International Exposition to secure his own exhibition gallery, which he had been denied earlier10 11 He was adored by his Carmel students, several of whom published extensive descriptions of his lectures and teaching methods Chase found the art colony at Carmel too confining socially and moved his residence to the nearby luxury Hotel Del Monte in Monterey, where he negotiated several important portrait commissions In mid-August one of his students, Helena Wood Smith, was brutally murdered by her Japanese lover, which caused the cancellation of several classes, near violent hysteria in the art colony, and the early departure of some of his students Chase continued with his regular teaching schedule, held meetings with important regional artists, such as William Ritschel, painted several local scenes, and experimented with monotypes9

Chase died on October 25, 1916, at his home in New York City, an esteemed elder of the American art world12 He was interred in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York

Today his works are in most major museums in the United States His home and studio at Shinnecock Hills, New York, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 as the William Merritt Chase Homestead13


See alsoedit

  • American Impressionism
  • List of William Merritt Chase artwork


  1. ^ a b c "Meet William Merritt Chase, The Man Who Taught America's Masters" NPRorg Retrieved 2016-08-10 
  2. ^ http://wwwmonadnockartorg/history-william-preston-phelpshtml
  3. ^ Tinterow, Gary, Geneviève Lacambre, and Deborah L Roldán 2003 Manet/Velázquez: the French Taste for Spanish Painting New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art p 524 ISBN 1588390403
  4. ^ a b Candace Wheeler 1918 Yesterdays in a Busy Life Harper Brothers, NY p 245 
  5. ^ "Search the Entire Collection Database - Heckscher Museum of Art" heckscherorg 
  6. ^ SGW Benjamin, Art in America: A Critical and Historical Sketch, Harpers, 1880
  7. ^ The Biography of Wilhelmina Weber Furlong: The Treasured Collection of Golden Heart Farm by Clint B Weber, ISBN 978-0-9851601-0-4
  8. ^ a b Edwards, Robert W 2012 Jennie V Cannon: The Untold History of the Carmel and Berkeley Art Colonies, Vol 1 Oakland, Calif: East Bay Heritage Project pp 122–123, 132–159, 177–179, 260–261 ISBN 9781467545679  An online facsimile of the entire text of Vol 1 is posted on the Traditional Fine Arts Organization website http://wwwtfaoicom/aa/10aa/10aa557htm
  9. ^ San Francisco Chronicle, 6 September 1914, p 54
  10. ^ New York Herald, 27 June 1915, p 5
  11. ^ Levy, Florence Nightingale 1917 American Art Directory, Volume 14 The American Federation of the Arts p 321 
  12. ^ National Park Service 2009-03-13 "National Register Information System" National Register of Historic Places National Park Service 

External linksedit

  • 322 images by William Merritt Chase
  • Bio at Brooklyn Museum of Art
  • Bio at National Gallery of Art
  • Ibiblio page on Chase, with portrait and paintings
  • Artcyclopedia page
  • Digitized William Merritt Chase exhibition catalogs
  • William Merritt Chase at Find a Grave
  • William Meritt Chase obituaries
  •  "Chase, William Merritt" New International Encyclopedia 1905 
  • Green-Wood Cemetery Burial Search
  • American impressionism and realism, fully digitized text from The Metropolitan Museum of Art libraries see index
  • “Do not try to paint the grandiose thing …” Bio and review

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William Merritt Chase

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