William Merritt Chase was born in Indiana in 1849, and he was the oldest of six children. When he was only twelve years old, his father tried to bring him into the women's shoe business, but Chase had decided, even then, that he desired to draw, and that the desire to draw had simply been born in him. After resisting his fathers commercial ambitions, William Chase found himself training with Barton S. Hays in 1867, and in two years was studying with Lemuel P. Wilmarth at the National Academy of Design in New York.
In 1871, William Chase moved to Saint Louis, where he was a still life painter, professionally. After realizing how popular his work was, he was approached by local patrons who offered to send him abroad to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Munich- one of many Americans to train there. He visited Venice extensively, then returned to America to begin teaching at the Art Student's League, devoting much of his time to teaching prospective students to draw wherever he could- at Brooklyn Art Association, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts, even the New York School of Art- two of which he founded.
Chase, like many other contemporary American artists was an eclectic, gathering much of his style from the works around him- international styles, past and present experiences. He was also an avid collector, and this played into his style considerably because of his dream to create the New York's finest art studio. It wasn't until 1881 that Chase received the information that would change his life from Belgian painter Alfred Stevens, who told him to paint like himself and to stop making his paintings look like classical painters- and from then on out, he adopted a personalized more modern, impressionist approach. Through his life, his modern look was influenced by many New York scenes- the park scenes he painted between 1886 and 1890, or the city scenes he painted in the mid 1880's. Other people have also had influences on his paintings- like John Singer Sargent who would become a close personal friend- and other artists, namely James McNeill Whistler inspired William Merritt Chase to paint in monochromatic tones when they proposed to paint each other- dramatically altering his view of these types of mediums in ways apparent in paintings resembling London park scenes between the years of 1872 and 1877. Modern urban subjects affected his style in 1886, where he dissected and recreated artwork- and even as a successful Impressionist, he remained true to his roots when he painted portraits and still lifes, providign his students and colleagues with samples that were donated to the Metropolitan Museum in 1891.
Chase died in New York in 1916, a gifted witness to an era he helped create with his gathering of impressions of late 19th century life in the city and country leisure abroad that helped him weave many aspects of modern and older masterpieces in ways that were distinctly his style, a trademark to time and place as art continued to evolve into what it is today.
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