William Merritt Chase USA

11-1-1849 Nineveh, USA - 10-25-1916 New York, USA

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Chase, William Merritt

William Merritt 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 William Merritt 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. 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.

In Europe, William Merritt Chase settled at the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, a long-standing center of art training that was attracting increasing numbers of Americans. 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, it was exhibited and won a medal at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, and this success gained Chase his first fame.

William Merritt Chase traveled to Venice, in 1877 with Duveneck and John Henry Twachtman before returning to the United States in 1878. He opened a studio in New York in the Tenth Street Studio Building. 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 Germany.

He is also responsible for establishing the Chase School, which later would become Parsons The New School for Design.

He settled in New York in 1878 and taught at the Art Students League of New York and then at his own Chase School of Art founded in 1896 and the New York School of Art which he also founded and was the most celebrated teacher of his time.

William Merritt Chase won many honors at home and abroad, became a member of the National Academy of Design, New York. His large, sumptuously decorated studio in the Tenth Street Studio Building, which he took soon after his return to New York, was the most famous artist's studio in America and a virtual manifesto of his and his generation's artistic practices and beliefs. In 1886 he married Alice Gerson, who was frequently his model. Chase mastered the ability to create a casual image of life suspended in time which, while looking effortless and unpremeditated, was actually carefully composed to reflect the movement of real people in real life situations.

The vigorous handling and fresh color characteristic of much of the best American painting of the early 20th century owes a good deal to his painting style. William Merritt Chase pupils whom he encouraged to paint in the open air included Georgia O'Keefe and Edward Hopper.

Art Movement: Impressionism
Influences: Alexander von Wagner, Karl von Piloty, Joseph Oriel Eaton, Lemuel Wilmarth
Traveled: Italy, Netherlands, England, France, Germany, Spain
Influenced: Georgia O'Keeffe, Edward Hopper, Dora Wheeler, George Bellows, Louise Upton Brumback, Kate Freeman Clark, Charles Demuth, Silas Dustin, Lydia Field Emmet, George Pearse Ennis, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, M. Jean McLane, Leopold Seyffert, Elizabeth Sparhawk-Jones, Joseph Stella, Edward Charles Volkert, Arthur Frank Mathews, Xavier Martinez, Percy Gray, Wilhelmina Weber Furlong, Arthur Hill Gilbert
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