William Merritt Chase 1849-1916
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William Merritt Chase, born in Franklin, Indiana on November 1, 1849, is perhaps most celebrated today for his contributions to American art through his lengthy teaching career. Though he chose not to identify himself with any one particular movement, his works inspired by Old Master paintings done in a Bravura style (thick brushwork with earthy palettes), for example Keying Up- The Court Jester of 1874, as well as his Impressionistic landscapes produced “en plein-air, ” for example Landscape: Shinnecock, Long Island, 1896 are some of his most well-known works. Chase taught an estimated one-thousand students, but among his most famous are American artists Georgia O’Keefe, John Marin, Arthur B. Carles, and Edward Hopper.

Though William Merritt Chase was born in Williamsburg, Indiana, his family moved early on to a then up-and-coming Indianapolis where Chase began to take lessons from Benjamin Hayes at just twelve years old. Chase had an extensive education, first enrolling at the National Academy of Design where he was taught by Lemuel Wilmarth and Joseph Oriel Eaton, and then moving to St. Louis, Missouri where four local businessmen sponsored him to travel to Munich where he enrolled at The Royal Academy. While in Munich he practised painting through copying works by the Old Masters, but the artist that influenced him the most was Diego Velásquez, whom he discovered on a later trip to Europe in 1881. Throughout much of the late 19th century Chase’s works employed the earthy palette and realist manner in which many of the Dutch and Spanish Old Masters painted. Upon returning from Munich, Chase had already made a name for himself in the States, and was offered a teaching position at the Art Students League in New York, where he taught from 1878 to 1894. This same year (1878) he moved into the famous Tenth Street Studio Building, where the prior tenant of his studio was celebrated American landscape painter, Albert Bierstadt. In addition, he opened the Chase School of Art this year, which is now known as Parsons New School for Design. In 1891 he founded the Shinnecock School of Art, where he taught plein-air painting for twelve summers. This is when his works begin to explore American landscapes and lighter palettes. Chase also taught at the Brooklyn Arts Association (1887, 1891-96), and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (1896-1909). He produced over two-thousand paintings in his lifetime, and he is represented in collections across the country, most-notably The Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art, New York, The Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and The Smithsonian, D.C. Chase died on October 25, 1916.