William Merritt Chase was an American painter who thrived during America’s Gilded Age.
He is best known for his portraits and landscapes in the impressionist “en plein air” (painted outdoors) style.
He captured the domestic comforts of his own family and the blissful lifestyle of some of the wealthy.
While working in the family business, Chase showed an early talent for art, studying under local, self-taught artists in Indianapolis, who urged him to further his studies at the National Academy in New York.
Declining family fortunes cut short his training and he left New York to join his family in St Louis—working to help support them, but continuing his art.
Catching the eye of wealthy St Louis art collectors, Chase was sent on an expense-paid trip to Europe in exchange for some of his paintings and help in procuring others for their collections.
As one of the finest centers for art training in Europe, Chase joined the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, where his figurative and impressionist loose brushwork began to shine.
Further travels in Italy rounded out his skills and he returned to the United States as one of a new wave of highly accomplished European-trained artists.
American statesman Samuel Greene Wheeler Benjamin once said of Chase’s style,
A noble sense of color is perceptible in all his works, whether in the subtle elusive tints of flesh, or in the powerful rendering of a mass of color. In the painting of a portrait he endeavors, sometimes very successfully, to seize character
Whether relaxing in the country, strolling in the park, playing with children at the beach, boating on a summer afternoon or simply contemplating life, his paintings show us a slice of American life at a beautiful time. A time tinted with gold. A Gilded Age.