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William Merritt Chase
America
1849-1916

William Merritt Chase

Impressionism
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William Merritt Chase, an American Impressionist painter and art educator, founded the Chase School, which he named after himself and taught and mentored younger generations. Chase's work consisted of portraits, landscapes, and still life. In addition to oil and pastel paintings, he also created many watercolors and etchings. His representative works include Self-Portrait and Portrait of Brother-in-Law.


Life

In 1849, Chase was born into a wealthy businessman family in Williamsburg, USA. Chase's father was a local businessman. He always helped his father take care of the store as a teenager. In 1861, the family moved to Indianapolis. His father wanted Chase to inherit his family business. However, Chase showed a keen interest and talent for art that impressed Chase's younger brother, who recalled, "Chase can draw an image with just a few strokes." Chase's initiating teacher was Barton S. Hays, a self-taught painter at the time. Because of the guidance he received from his teacher, Chase soon developed his own unique style of painting. At this point, his teacher encouraged Chase to continue his education in New York. In 1869, at the age of 19, Chase arrived in the United States and met the famous local painter Joseph Oriel Eaton. After studying for a while, due to his outstanding talent, Chase enrolled in the National Academy of Design. In 1870, his family's financial problems forced Chase to leave New York and move to St. Louis, Missouri, where his family was based. While he worked to help support his family, he became active in the St. Louis art community, winning prizes for his paintings at a local exhibition. At this time, Chase's talent caught the attention of a wealthy St. Louis collector, who funded an invitation for him to visit Europe for two years. At the same time, Chase was also fascinated by Europe, once stating, "I'd rather go to Europe than to heaven." During his time in Europe, he mainly stayed at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. He studied under Alexander von Wagner and Karl von Piloty and met many of the American artists who trained there. Chase's taste was thus influenced, and the works of artists such as Rembrandt, Rubens, and Frans Hals entered Chase's eye as the main research subjects. Because Chase studied with Pilloty for five years, there were evident traces of his teacher's painting style in his early works, using a dark palette, mastery brush strokes, and a gorgeous classical style.


In 1878, Chase returned to New York, rented a studio, and began teaching art students. In the 1880s, Chase often traveled between the United States and Europe, engaged in art exhibition collection activities. As an artist, collector and activist, Chase's contacts were extensive. He spared no expense in transforming his studio into an exotic performance venue and a social center for local art societies. This gesture enhanced his reputation as an upper-class bohemian and attracted numerous prestigious and well-paid portrait commissions. In 1881, Chase met a man who greatly influenced him, the Belgian painter Alfred Stevens, who advised Chase: "Don't try to make your paintings look as if an old master painted them." This advice impacted Chase so much that he began experimenting with modern-style painting. At almost the same time, Chase met John Singer Sargent, forming a lifelong friendship. In 1885, Chase met Whistler in London and painted portraits of each other. The portrait painted by Chase is James Abbott McNeill Whistler. In 1886, he married Alice Gerson, a family friend who modeled for him, and they formed a large family, the members of which became his preferred subjects for his works. In 1892, he built a summer home in Shinnecock, and he created a large number of works there.


In the winter of 1916, Chase began to feel ill. Although he continued to paint, he became increasingly ill with a diagnosis of cirrhosis of the liver. Forced to interrupt his visit to Atlantic City, Chase returned to New York, where he died two days later at 66.


Styles

American Impressionists differed greatly in their painting styles from each other, and Chase was one of the landscape painters who successfully combined Impressionism with American art. This is because of their different influences. Some artists trained in Paris, some studied in Munich, and some grew up in America. They inherited the Impressionists' bright colors and bold brushstrokes, but in terms of subject matter, they were more in line with the tastes of American middle- and upper-class patrons and were more decorative. When Henry Twachtman died in 1902, Chase quickly filled the gap. Unlike the French Impressionists, the American Impressionists worked primarily on American soil, depicting American city streets and beautiful natural scenery in vivid, fresh and harmonious colors, incorporating Impressionist painting styles and specific themes and becoming a classic of the American Impressionist legacy.


Before Chase became a member of the Ten American Painters, he traveled the world and viewed the masterpieces of the world's leading painters, particularly admiring the portrait masterpieces of the Spanish 17th-century painter Velázquez. He found in it the rich expressiveness of a pure shade. Chase initially liked to use the thick and low tones of the Munich styles, using dark colors to form a strong contrast with the light. Therefore, he was convinced that the French Impressionist style was the most worthy example to follow in American painting because it expressed American emotions. The Open Air Breakfast, one of his masterpieces from 1888 that adopted the Impressionist method of sketching directly outdoors, was painted in a light palette of bright, impressionistic colors. It depicts a glimpse of the comfortable life of an American estate owner in the great outdoors. This painting is now in the Toledo Museum of Art, Spain. Chase was a gifted observer and an innovative painter. We need to reacquaint ourselves with this overlooked and important figure and appreciate his mastery of oil painting.

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