William Merritt Chase, 1849-1916
By Anna Maria Niederlander
Born on 1st November, 1849 in Indiana, William Merritt Chase was to become a renowned international figure of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. His charismatic character, flamboyant etiquette, and eclectic artistic style fuelled not only his career as a successful painter, but also as an inspirational teacher.
His passion for art started early on, studying under local, self-taught artists in Indiana, and eventually enrolling in the National Academy of Design in New York. In 1872 he began his studies at the Munich Academy where he focused on Dutch, Spanish and French masters.
It was upon his return to New York City that his career took off, applying style he learned on his years abroad (Impressionism and Realism included) to the fast-paced urban lifestyle and society. This eclectic combination became characteristic of his style, made all the more interesting by his contemporary iconography, most famously his studies of American women.
In 1856, he opened his large studio on 10th street, the first building in the city solely for an artists’ use. It served not only as his studio but a private gallery, as well as a venue for his famous costume parties. Often seen with a walrus moustache, his high French silk hat and expensive suit whilst walking his white Russian wolfhound, his name soon became a household regular across the country and overseas. While he continued painting himself, he soon began his career as one of the era’s most esteemed art professors, teaching the likes of Edward Hopper and Georgia O'Keeffe. “There was something fresh and energetic and fierce and exciting about him that made him fun,” remarked O’Keeffe. Soon, he opened his own art school called the Chase School of Art, now known as the esteemed Parsons School of Design.
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Meisler, Stanley. "Restoring the portrait of an artist: How a new exhibition is giving William Merritt Chase his due." Los Angeles Times, June 23, 2016. Accessed October 27, 2017. http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-ca-mn-william-merritt-chase-20160526-snap-htmlstory.html.
Weinberg, H. Barbara. "William Merritt Chase (1849–1916).” Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, July 2011. Accessed October 27, 2017. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/chas/hd_chas.htm.