In December, I had the good fortune to catch the William Merritt Chase exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. I came away enthralled by Chase’s work, especially his studio interiors and pastels. Chase, an American, studied at the Munich Royal Academy for six years. Upon his return to the states in 1878, he taught at The Art Students League in New York City. One of his students was Georgia O’Keeffe. My museum trip was to see the Modern exhibit of O’Keeffe paintings. To get the chance to see Chase and learn of their connection made for an extra special experience. O’Keeffe said of Chase “there was something fresh and energetic and fierce and exciting about him that made him fun”.
Other notable artists that studied under Chase were Charles DeMuth, Marsden Hartley, Edward Hopper, and Charles Scheeler.
Chase taught as a means to support his 8 children and because he possessed a genuine gift for reaching people and nurturing talent. During his lifetime he would travel and teach in Haarlem, Bruges, London, Madrid, and Florence. His personal painting style emulated that of the old masters with contemporary subject matter. He was a great admirer of Velasquez and Rembrandt.
Another intriguing aspect of the man was his dress. Top hat, carnation in lapel, bejeweled stick pin in tie, always turned out impeccably. He appreciated beauty and enjoyed theatre.
The interior paintings of Chase’s studio are what really caught my attention. Being an interior designer, I like interior stuff. The Tenth Street Studio gallery in New York was home to many artists. The Hudson River school painters preceded him there. Chase had a large space, double height, crammed with objects and furnishings he used to create elaborate backdrops. He loved Asian textiles, had amassed a collection of original art and also reproduced old master paintings. Large case pieces, chairs from different periods, copper vessels, elaborate light fixtures, rugs, and books all played a role in his evolving artistic theatre.
Here are a few photographs from the exhibit, some taken at weird angles to catch the best light.
Art critic Arthur Hoeber said of Chase’s studios “a veritable glimpse of heaven, a shrine into which one entered with bated breath and deep humility. They were a temple to art.”
Chase instructed his students to “feel happy when you are painting and practice brush work to such an extent that after a while you forget the means by which you are doing it”
A few years back, I signed up for a painting class at a local art college. In the first class we were instructed to think of something tragic that happened to us and channel that emotion into our painting. What a bummer, I would of much rather taken Chase’s class.
Breathtaking pastels. Chase considered pastel equal to oil.
Shinnecock was his family’s home on Long Island designed by his friend, the architect Stanford White.
Love this frame with this painting.
Architecture and interiors, my loves!
To learn more about the artist, I recommend reading William Merritt Chase, A Modern Master here