Still Life with Hummingbird

William Merritt Chase (American, 1849-1916)

Currently on View in K212
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The lighter tonalities and tighter brushwork are characteristic of Chase's early work.

Based on the strength of his still lifes, a group of St. Louis businessmen sponsored Chase's education at the Munich Royal Academy in 1872.

Although flowers occasionally reappear in the artist's output, his reputation as a still life painter was secured by his bravura depictions of fish.


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.

In 1870 Chase moved to St. Louis, where his family had relocated after losing their shoe business in Indianapolis. He hoped to support himself by satisfying the Victorian taste for still-life paintings of flowers and fruit. This early example of Chase’s still-life painting suggests his awareness of other American artists. The hummingbird motif probably derives from the work of Martin Johnson Heade, and the bouquet recalls John LaFarge’s floral arrangements. Chase considered flowers “the most difficult” things to paint, which may account for their scarcity in his work. Yet in 1872 his success in still-life painting induced a group of local patrons to allow Chase to resume this education by sponsoring his attendance at the Royal Academy in Munich.


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

Object Information

William Merritt Chase (American, 1849-1916)
creation date
oil on canvas
15-1/4 x 12-1/8 in.
20 x 22-1/2 in. (framed)
accession number
credit line
Gift of Carl B. Shafer
Public Domain
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

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