|WILLIAM MERRITT CHASE (1849-1916) - A Bit of Sunlight (Garden Wall), ca. 1888|
Signed lower right: W.M. Chase
In 1849 William Merritt Chase was born in Williamsburg, Indiana to Sarah Swaim and David Hester Chase. The young Chase began to take private lessons from Benjamin Hayes after the family moved to Indianapolis in 1861. He would go on to study at the National Academy in New York with Lemuel Wilmarth, privately with Joseph Oriel Eaton, and in St. Louis with Munich-trained teacher John Mulvaney.
While in St. Louis, Chase's talent became known to four men who became his sponsors and sent him to Munich from 1871 to 1878 to learn the bravura style of painting that was currently in vogue at the Royal Academy. During his time in Munich he had become good friends with fellow students Frank Duveneck and John Twachtman, and the three of them would travel and paint together in Venice. In 1881 he traveled to Paris, where he met Mary Cassatt and John Singer Sargent, and then to Spain to study the works of Velasquez at the Prado.
Chase began a teaching position at the Art Students League in 1878 that he held until 1894, and was a founding member of the Society of American Painters in Pastel in 1882. He was also known to have an extraordinary studio in the building at 51 West 10th Street in New York, referred to as the Tenth Street Studio Building which was the source of admiration and inspiration to many artists and patrons because of its ideal northern light and luxuriously ornate interior.
In 1886 Chase married and moved to Brooklyn near Prospect Park. With its new views of urbanized nature where the well-to-do could find solace and relaxation in the midst of the fasting growing city in the world, the park served as the perfect subject matter for his rapidly increasing interest in Impressionism.
He was very much a dedicated plein air painter - described by art historian Prudence Pfeiffer as the most influential American artist working at the end of the 19th century who painted “en plein air.” Chase said: "I don't believe in making pencil sketches and then painting your landscape in your studio. You must be right under the sky." Using plein air methods he also did much painting of life in other areas around New York. In the case of our picture, A Bit of Sunlight (Garden Wall), he successfully captures a window into a sunlit corner of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and thus transforms the seemingly ordinary into the extraordinary. One critic, who noted in his review of the 1889 pastel exhibition [Barbara Dayer Gallati, William Merritt Chase, Modern American Landscapes 1886-1890 (Brooklyn Museum of Art, 1999), p.78] (“The Pastel Exhibition,” Art Amateur 21, June 1889):
"Of Mr. Chase’s landscapes we like best the simplest, appropriately named “A Bit of Sunlight.” It is a view in the Brooklyn navy-yard of a straight, flagged path, between two trim grass plots, with the trunks of a few trees and a low, gray wall for a back ground - very unpromising material, one would think. But as a close study of tones it is most interesting to the connoisseur, and the resulting effect of sunshine is so natural as to take the unprepared spectator by surprise."
In additional to being a highly prolific artist he remained a very active teacher for most of his life. He led numerous summer workshops throughout the East Coast and Europe and finally established his school at Shinnecock on eastern Long Island, New York in 1891 which would be open for the next twelve years. Beginning in 1914 he would spend the next two summers in California teaching classes and painting in Carmel, Monterey and San Francisco. In 1915 he was a member of the Jury of Awards at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco.
The main focus of both his work and teachings was influenced by the French Impressionists. Chase eventually made the full switch to this more colorful and spontaneous approach to plein air painting and even increased his use of pastels specifically because of their ease of use outdoors.
Chase became one of America’s most important painters and teachers; his students would number in the thousands and include Gifford Beal, Guy Péne du Bois, Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley, Edward Hopper, Alfred Maurer, Kenneth Hayes Miller, Georgia O’Keeffe and Charles Sheeler. In 1903 he was elected a member of The Ten, the association of prominent New York and Boston Impressionists, and from then until his death in 1916 would continue to receive high accolades for his work as well as be given solo exhibitions in nearly every important city in the country.
Chase’s works can be found in numerous collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL; Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY; Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH; Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Smithsonian American Art Museum (National Museum of American Art), Washington, DC; St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO; The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH; The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI and many other important institutions and private collections.
|Location of Origin: North America|
|Medium/Materials: Pastel on paper|
|Dimensions: 7 1/2 x 12 1/2 inches|
|Primary Classification: Antique Picture Frames and Fine Art for Sale : Antique Paintings : Landscapes|
|Secondary Classification: Modern and Contemporary Art|
- New York, New York Cultural Center, A Selection of Drawings, Pastels and Watercolors From the Collection of Mr. & Mrs. Lester Francis Avnet, December 8, 1969 - January 25, 1970
- American Works on Paper: 100 Years of American Art History (Davenport, IA, Davenport Art Gallery, Dec. 11, 1982 - Feb. 12 1984; Little Rock, AK, Arkansas Art Center, Feb. 24 - Apr. 8, 1984; Oklahoma City, OK, Oklahoma Art Center, Apr. 15 - May 20, 1984; Wichita Falls, TX, Wichita Falls Museum, May 27 - July 1, 1984; Corpus Christi, TX, Art Museum of South Texas, July 8 - Aug. 12, 1984; Kansas City, MO, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Aug. 19 - Sept. 23, 1984; Huntsville, AL, Huntsville Museum of Art, Sept. 30 - Nov. 4, 1984; Stillwater, OK, Gardiner Art Gallery, Nov. 11 - Dec. 16, 1984; Pueblo, CO, Sangre de Christo Art Center, Jan. 4 - Mar. 3, 1985; Lincoln, NE, Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, Mar. 17 - Apr. 21, 1985; Peoria, IL, Lakeview Museum of Arts & Sciences, May 5 - June 9, 1985; Salina, KS, Salina Art Center, Aug. 11 - Sept. 15, 1985; Springfield, MO, Springfield Art Museum, Sept. 29 - Nov. 3, 1985; Lexington, KY, University of Kentucky Art Museum, Nov. 17 - Dec. 29, 1985)
- Brooklyn, New York, Brooklyn Museum of Art, William Merritt Chase: Modern American Landscapes, 1886-1890, May 26 - August 13, 2000; The Art Institute of Chicago, September 7 - November 26, 2000; Museum of Fine Arts Houston, December 13, 2000 - March 11, 2001- New York, Adelson Galleries, American Impressionism and Realism, May - September, 2001
Prudence Pfeiffer, “William Merritt Chase Under the Sky”, Plein-Air Magazine, July 2005, pp. 38-43Barbara Dayer Gallati, William Merritt Chase, Modern American Landscapes 1886-1890 (Brooklyn Museum of Art, 1999), pp.78-79, illustratedRonald G. Pisano, Summer Afternoons: Landscape Paintings of William Merritt Chase (Bulfinch Press, Boston 1993)Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art (Wellfleet Press, Secaucus, NJ 1987)Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940 (Hughes Publishing Co., San Francisco, 1986)William Gerdts, American Impressionism (Abbeville Press, NY 1984)Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art (Harper & Row, New York, 1979)New York Cultural Center in association with Fairleigh Dickinson University, A Selection of Drawings, Pastels and Watercolors From the Collection of Mr. & Mrs. Lester Francis Avnet, December 8, 1969 - January 25, 1970, pp. 78-79, no. 19, illustrated (listed as The Garden Wall)
|Provenance: - Noah Goldowsky Gallery, New York- Timothy Baum, New York- Mr. & Mrs. Lester Francis Avnet, New York- Private Collection, Massachusetts|
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121 Mount Vernon, Boston, MA 02108 USA
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