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William Merritt Chase

(New York / California / 1849-1916)

William Merritt Chase became one of the more revered figures in American art because of his painting abilities and skills at conveying them to other artists. He has been described as the "single most important teacher of his generation, perhaps in all of American art education" (Gerdts 135).

Chase was born in Franklin, Indiana to Sarah Swaim and David Hester Chase, and in 1861, the family moved to Indianapolis where he took private lessons from a local teacher. He then studied art at the National Academy in New York and privately with Joseph Oriel Eaton. He also spent a brief time studying in St. Louis, Missouri.

His good friends were Frank Duveneck and John Twachtman. The three men traveled together through Venice.

Chase returned to New York where he had a teaching position at the Art Students League from 1878 to 1894. Over time, Chase formed a significant collection of contemporary American and European paintings which he acquired mostly from artists' studios, dealers and auctions.

In 1881, he returned to Europe where he spent time with Mary Cassatt and John Singer Sargent in Paris and went to Spain to copy works at the Prado of Velasquez whom he greatly admired and whose influence was lastingly apparent in much of his painting.

Chase conducted many summer workshops throughout the East Coast and in Europe, with the best known being his school at Shinnecock, Long Island. The popular school lasted for twelve seasons beginning in 1891.

Chase also painted on the West Coast in California. He made his first trip in 1914 and taught summer classes at Carmel. The next year he returned, this time to San Francisco where he was on the Jury of Awards in the Panama-Pacific Exposition.

William Merritt Chase died in 1916.

Sources:
William Gerdts, American Impressionism
Prudence Pfeiffer, 'William Merritt Chase Under the Sky', Plein-Air Magazine, July 2005. pp. 38-43
Ronald Pisano, Summer Afternoons: Landscape Paintings of William Merritt Chase
Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940
Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
Hammer Galleries, New York, (Studio Description)

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