William Merritt Chase 1849–1916
William Meritt Chase was born the eldest child of a successful merchant in Williamsburg, Indiana. In 1861, his family moved to Indianapolis, where Chase received his first artistic training under local painter Barton S. Hays. On Hays’ advice, Chase traveled to New York for further training at the National Academy of Design. After his studies, he moved back to Saint Louis in 1871, where he established himself, to little success, as a still-life painter. His fortunes changed when he was befriended by two prominent local businessmen who financed his study at the Munich Royal Academy under Karl von Piloty. While in Munich, Chase also joined forces with the Duveneck Boys, a lively group of artists mentored by Frank Duveneck.
Chase returned to New York in 1878 with a much more impressive reputation as a painter. He took up a teaching position at the newly established Arts Students League and acquired the former studio of Albert Bierstadt, which would become a gathering place for artists, students, and patrons, as well as a showcase for Chase himself. In the 1880s, he became more interested in landscape painting and the possibilities of pastels and began painting plein-air scenes. He also traveled to Europe three times between 1881 and 1884, and applied what he had learned from his experiments in the use of color in Holland to the American landscapes he painted upon his return.
In 1882, Chase helped found the Society of American Painters in Pastel and went on to create an extraordinary body of work in the medium. From 1891 to 1902, he taught open-air classes at Shinnecock Hills, Long Island, and produced many of his most famous works, including A Friendly Call (1895). After the close of his Shinnecock School in 1902, he organized formal summer teaching trips abroad in Spain, Italy, and Holland. In 1903, he was elected a member of The Ten, the association of prominent New York and Boston Impressionists; he replaced John Henry Twachtman, who had died the previous year. In the last decade of his career, Chase was given one-man shows in nearly every important city in the country.
Chase’s students numbered in the thousands; among the best known were Gifford Beal, Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Charles Sheeler. His works are included in important public public collections across the country, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum, the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.