William Merritt Chase
Chase was born in Williamsburg (now Ninevah), Indiana. He showed an early interest in art and studied under Indianapolis-based artists Barton S. Hays and Jacob Cox. After a brief stint in the Navy, Chase’s teachers urged him to travel to New York for further training.
He arrived in New York in 1869 and studied under Joseph Oriel Eaton. Chase then enrolled in the National Academy of Design under Lemuel Wilmarth, who had been a student of the renowned French artist Jean-Leon Gerome. In 1870, he moved to St. Louis, becoming active in the art community there and winning prizes for his paintings at a local exhibition. Wealthy collectors in the city arranged for him to visit Europe for two years in exchange for paintings and his assistance securing art for their collections. He settled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. An 1876 painting was exhibited in Boston and later won a medal at a Philadelphia art show, gaining Chase his first fame.
He traveled to Venice, Italy in 1877 before returning to the United States in 1878. Chase opened a studio in New York and became a member of the Tilers group of artists and authors. In 1883, he helped organize an exhibition to raise funds to construct a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty; the loans included three works by Édouard Manet.
Chase also became interested in teaching, opening the Shinnecock Hills Summer School on eastern Long Island in 1891; he taught there until 1902. He adopted the plein air method of painting and often taught students outdoors. He also opened the Chase School of Art in 1896, which became the New York School of Art two years later; he was an instructor there until 1907. Chase also taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Art Students League, and the Brooklyn Art Association. He trained and inspired the next generation of American artists, including Edward Hopper and Georgia O’Keeffe.
He was a member of the National Academy of Design in New York, and from 1885 to 1895 was president of the Society of American Artists. He also became a member of Ten American Painters, an artists' group formed in 1898 to exhibit their work as a unified group.
His works today 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.