This balanced composition set against a dark background reflects Chase's Munich training.
Famous for his rapid technique, Chase claimed he could return at least one fish to market fresh enough to be sold.
William Merritt Chase: Celebrated Still Life Painter
William Merritt Chase was a versatile painter of landscapes, portraits, and still lifes. In fact, he was widely esteemed as the foremost American still-life painter of his era. Born in Nineveh, Indiana, Chase spent a short period as a pupil of Barton Stone Hays, an Indianapolis portrait painter. He continued his studies in New York at the National Academy. Later, he traveled extensively in Europe after studying in Munich. In 1878, he returned to New York, where he made his home. He exerted great influence upon the younger American painters through his teaching. Although his approach was realistic, he invested everything with a particular life and charm.
In 1904, Chase began a series of fish subjects, which was highly acclaimed. This canvas is a spirited example of the genre. There can be little doubt that Chase had seen similar still lifes by the French artist Édouard Manet from the mid-1860s. This broadly painted and carefully balanced composition of shiny fish set against a dark, contrasting background hearkens back to Chase’s training in Munich during the 1870s. The painting was one of the artist’s favorites. In a letter of 1915 to the IMA (then known as the Art Association of Indianapolis), Chase wrote, “…I am pleased to know that you care for my fish picture. I feel sure this is the best one I have painted, and I would be much pleased to have it permanently in the Art Association."