William Merritt

United States • 1849−1916

William Merritt Chase (William Merritt Chase, November 1, 1849, Nineve - October 25, 1916, New York) - American artist, who with pleasure and pride took the classical European artistic tradition, oriental influences and at the same time - the revolutionary finds of French impressionists.

Features of the artist William Chase: Chase sought to create a distinctly unique, characteristic American art - and fit it into world history. Biographers and critics say: Chase is a cosmopolitan and eclectic who reworked all the greatest artistic discoveries in his work to compensate young America for the absence of a centuries-old continuous tradition. He was equally masterful in oil painting and pastel drawing, enriching these two techniques with mutual visual similarities.

Famous paintings by William Chase: "Portrait of Lydia Emmet", "Breakfast in the open", "Hide and Seek", "Royal jester", "Washday", "Portrait of Mrs. S.".


William Chase was the oldest child in a large family of footwear merchants. And if he were a French impressionist, he would have to go through the necessary rebellion, protest and disputes with his father, who certainly would have pinned great hopes on the firstborn about the continuation of the family business and continuity. But here was America. Whether William was lucky to be born in the right place, at the right time, or in the right family, all that matters is that, once started in the right direction, this luck accompanied him all his life. As if it couldn't be otherwise.

His father supported the dream of a boy - and before the age of 18, William had already received his elementary artistic education in Indianapolis in the studio of a local portrait painter. At the age of 18 he went to New York to study at the National Academy of Design. Even family financial problems, due to which Chase were forced to move to St. Louis, were a turning point for William. In 1872, for some time, the local rich patrons gladly ordered pictures from the young artist for their houses, and then they considered it promising to invest money not only in his paintings, but also in his education. In a word, they threw themselves off and suggested that Chase should study in Europe, and at the same time help them find the right canvases for private collections. Would he agree, they asked. "Oh God, I would choose Europe even if I had to give up paradise! ” - answered William.

And he really refuses from paradise: Chase does not go to the city, which all young artists now dream of, he deliberately chooses Munich, rather than a tempting, trendy, seductive Paris. The French capital by that time became the artistic capital, the name does not descend from it Edouard Manet, but Claude Monet just writing "Impression"which in two years will appear on the first exhibition of the Impressionists. Too many distractions - Chase decides and goes to the Munich Academy, goes to copy Rubens, Khalsa and admire Wilhelm Lablem. Returning a few years later to New York, a sensible and purposeful William no longer only knows how to write, but also how to teach painting.


Before the lesson at the New York School of Art, teacher William Chase ran into the market, bought several fishes in the shop, quickly wrote a small still life in class (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), left students in silent admiration - and managed to return the fish to the market before it had time to spoil. He advised his students to cut a rectangular viewfinder on a sheet of paper - and walk over the motives with him, look through this window at the world, discovering new views. Look for an unexpected view in the manner of the photographer.

Often, Chase invited collectors, dealers, and other artists to his classes with students to watch his work. He put on a snow-white suit, worked in oils - and managed to finish the work without getting dirty. His students recalled that at such moments of the teacher's excitement Chase was fascinated by himself and instantly captured the attention of the audience. Those sat with their mouths open and continuously watched every movement of the artist. Chase worked very fast. At the same time, he often wrote not what he wanted, but what he had to do, not so much a work as a sample: young artists needed to convincingly teach modern art.

He taught all his life in the main art schools of America: the League of Art Students, the Brooklyn School of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Hartworth School of Art. Chase founded the New York School of Art and for 12 years led the Summer Plein Air School in Shinnekok. His disciples were Georgia O'Keeffe, Edward Hopper, Marsden Hartley, Rockwell kent and Joseph stella.

It happened that an outstanding teacher, William Chase, was losing confidence, looking uneasily at what had already been lived and written, and sighed: "Future generations will remember me only as an artist who wrote fish, only fish. In vain he was afraid - he is remembered by not a fish portrait painter at all.


William Chase’s New York studio resembled oriental bazaar and theatrical scenery at the same time: antiques, antique knick-knacks, expressive furniture, carpets, vases, exotic fabrics. It was located in the first in America (and maybe all over the world) building, built specially for artists - only workshops. It was noisy here, doors wide open, collectors and artists constantly came in, and exhibitions were organized. Chase does not know what is lack of money, hunger, devastating criticism and persecution, he works enthusiastically and without a doubt - American art is created in his workshop.

Here, in the studio, the 27-year-old William will meet with the 20-year-old model Alice Gerson, whom she quickly marries and lives in a quiet, happy, cozy marriage for many years. 8 children, a serene summer family vacation in Shinnekoka, where Chase has the largest open-air school in America, a big house and the whole town is a large, hot studio on the shores of the bay. In the homes of farmers and fishermen in the summer students are placed Chase - sometimes 150-200 people.

When it gets cold, he returns to the city and, when not teaching, writes New York city parks, playing daughters and beautiful women in japanese kimono.

The artist died in 1916, he was 66 years old - and over the years he was able to transform his own eclectic, cosmopolitan, virtuoso style into such powerful and voluminous painting traditions that his famous students could safely move on - into modern, avant-garde, modern art.

Author: Anna Sidelnikova
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