William Merritt Chase was born in Ninevah, Indiana and studied under Barton Hayes in Indianapolis and then briefly at the National Academy of Design. Due to the interest and generosity of several art patrons, Chase was able to take a five-year trip to Munich, where he studied at the city’s Royal Academy. In 1878, Chase returned to New York City, opened his Tenth Street Studio and developed his signature impressionist style. He was a member of America’s influential group of impressionists known as The Ten, but was also an extremely influential teacher. Chase opened the first summer school of landscape painting at his summer home in Shinnecock, Long Island. He also taught at the Chase School in New York, which he founded, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. His students included such famous artists as Marsden Hartley, Charles Demuth, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe and Charles Sheeler.
This portrait of Chase’s friend is characteristic of his early student work. It presents the young attorney in a frontal view, with his earnest face emerging from a dark background. The smoothly blended brushstrokes show a dramatic increase in assurance and finesse compared to the handling of his earlier portraits. Chase not only emulates the manner of his teacher, Barton S. Hays, but he is also working within the broader traditions of early American portraiture. After a few months of lessons, Hays recognized that Chase had mastered all he had to offer. He provided his student with an introduction to J. O. Eaton, a fashionable New York painter formerly of Indianapolis. It was Eaton who advised Chase to enroll in the National Academy of design.
Ronald G. Pisano. William Merritt Chase: The Complete Catalogue of Known and Documents Work by William Merritt Chase (1849-1916), Vol. 2: Portraits in Oil, New Haven Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2007. ISBN-13: 978-0300110210
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