First Touch of Autumn

William Merritt Chase (American, 1849-1916)

Currently on View in K210
Image Licensing

  • In this dramatically simplified vista, Hoosier native William Merritt Chase captures the vast emptiness of rolling coastal dunes under an endless blue sky that fills half the canvas. He believed that as a landscape painter “You must be right out under the sky,” and he often led his students in outdoor painting demonstrations.
  • During the 1890s, Chase spent summers teaching at the famous Shinnecock Hills Summer School of Art on Long Island. The first touches of autumn appearing on the sandy landscape, no longer populated by his family or students, suggest the end of another season and Chase’s imminent return to city life.
Curatorial Summary

Hoosier native William Merritt Chase trained at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Munich before settling in New York City. He maintained a summer home and studio at Shinnecock Hills on the eastern end of Long Island, where in 1891 he established one of America’s first summer schools of art. In these classes and in his own artistic production of this period, Chase focused primarily on painting out of doors. Some of Chase’s finest and most Impressionist landscapes were painted during his summer sojourns at Shinnecock.

Although Chase often included his family in his tranquil Shinnecock scenes, in First Touch of Autumn the artist presents an expansive view of the landscape. The Shinnecock countryside is low and rolling, its flat terrain broken only by an ocean, trees, sand dunes, and dwarfed bushes. Chase captured the vastness of this lowland country as it stretches toward the sea under a cloudless blue sky.


Smithgall, Elsa, Erica E. Hirshler, Katherine M. Bourguignon, Giovanna Ginex, John Davis, and William Merritt Chase. William Merritt Chase: A Modern Master. Washington, DC: Phillips Collection, 2016.

(Macbeth Galleries, New York, New York) {1}. Peter Reilly, Indianapolis, Indiana; by descent to his son, Peter C. Reilly and Dr. Jeanette P. Reilly, Indianapolis, Indiana; given to the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1997.

{1} Verso label: Macbeth Galleries | 15 East 57th St. | by Hayes Storage.

Object Information

William Merritt Chase (American, 1849-1916)
creation date
about 1898
oil on canvas
40-1/8 x 50-1/8 in.
44-1/4 x 54-1/4 in. (framed)
accession number
credit line
Gift of Peter C. Reilly and Dr. Jeanette P. Reilly
Public Domain
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

You May Also Like