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William Merritt Chase Edit Profile

artist , educator

William Merritt Chase was one of the leading artists of America at the end of the 19th century as well as a distinguished teacher.


William Merritt Chase was born in Franklin, on 1 November 1849, to the family of Sarah Swain and David H. Chase, a local businessman.


William Merritt Chase received his first art instruction in Indianapolis under B. F. Hays. He then attended the National Academy of Design in New York City, after which he studied in St. Louis, where his family had moved.

Through friends impressed by his ability, he went abroad in 1872 and spent 5 years at the academy in Munich. American painters Frank Duveneck and John H. Twachtman were fellow students.


Chase took a trip to Spain, where he copied the work of Velázquez, then spent several months in Venice with Duveneck.

In 1878 the Art Students League in New York City invited Chase to become a painting instructor. Knowledge of his European success had preceded him, and his class was an immediate success. He then founded his own school and continued for years as the most prominent art teacher in America.

Chase had his winter studio in New York City and held a summer school on Long Island. He was a prolific painter, active in the field of portraiture and landscape, as well as making a great success of fish still lifes. He soon gave up the muddy brown tonalities of the Munich school and adopted the silvery gray tones of Velázquez, gradually adopting lighter tones applied with much the same bravura as John Singer Sargent.

Chase's portrait of Miss Dora Wheeler shows penetrating character analysis as well as facile handling of the exotic setting. A Friendly Call, showing Mrs. Chase receiving a beautifully gowned visitor, is perhaps his most brilliantly conceived composition of figures in an interior.

Chase's New York studio was a favorite gathering place for prominent artists and other notable people. On one occasion in 1890 Sargent was permitted to exhibit his portrait of the great Spanish dancer Carmencita, in the hope of making a sale to one of the notables who had gathered to view the painting and witness a private performance of her dancing. Chase asked Carmencita to pose for him, but she refused when he did not give her expensive presents such as those lavishly bestowed by Sargent. The portrait had to be finished from photographs.

During visits to London, Chase became a close friend of James McNeill Whistler and painted a distinguished full-length portrait of the expatriate artist.

Over the years Chase probably had more students than any other painting teacher of his day. His influence was far-reaching, and he was responsible for establishing dashing, freely brushed canvases reminiscent of both Édouard Manet and Sargent as the accepted style of painting.


  • William Merritt Chase was founder the Chase School, which later would become Parsons The New School for Design.

    Chase won many honors at home and abroad, was a member of the National Academy of Design, New York, and from 1885 to 1895 was president of the Society of American Artists. He became a member of the Ten American Painters after John Henry Twachtman died.

    Today his works are in most major museums in the United States. His home and studio at Shinnecock Hills, New York, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 as the William Merritt Chase Homestead.



The National Academy of Design, the Art Students League in New York City, the Society of American Artists


Chase was very elegant in appearance and had a great deal of dash and style.


Chase married Alice Gerson in 1887 and together they raised eight children.

Alice Gerson

Alice Dieudonnee Chase

She often modeled for his father.

Dorothy Bremond Chase

She often modeled for his father.

James McNeill Whistler