Sunday, July 13, 2014

Chasing Chase

The Chase Homestead by William Merritt Chase
14 1/4 x 16 1/8 oil on panel, 1893
San Diego Museum of Art
image via here
I am finally reading some of the books about William Merritt Chase in my "stack". Reading, thinking, here I am living where Chase lived and painted, shouldn't I be walking in his Hamptons footsteps? My first step was to look for the Chase Homestead. The home was posted to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Designed by Stanford White, it was completed in time for the Chase family to reside there in the summer of 1892. They maintained a summer residence there until 1916.  Numerous paintings and photographs of the Chase family include this lovely home. The painting most well known to me is the Bayberry Bush in the Parrish Art Museum collection.
The Bayberry Bush - William Merritt Chase
25 1/2 " x 33 1/8 " oil on canvas 1895
Parrish Museum Collection, photo via
Arriving at what I hoped was the proper place, I realized 122 years of plant growth was not going to offer the Chasean vistas that I was yearning for. Not only that, hello, we are talking about private property. Where ever the house exactly is, it could not be seen from the road and I was not about to trespass in order to view it. I will dream of a future invitation.  I knew that I would have better luck finding the scenes that inspired him. Weren't these landscapes still inspiring me?
Photos of the Chase Homestead
The Chase children
Mary Content, Roland, Robert, Helen, Hazel, Dorothy, Koto and Alice
William Merritt Chase in the background
Parrish Museum photo via
The children model for many of Chase's paintings and are also the subject of photographs attributed to Mrs. Alice Gerson Chase.
Chase House, Shinnecock Hills - Postmarked September 10, 1909 
from "Lady Pansies" (Mrs. Chase) to Miss Bessie Fisher, 
requesting "brown liquid to photograph or rather print with" 
Cyanotype, printed on penny postcard
Parrish Museum Archives, Gift of Mrs A. Byrd Mc Dowell
as pictured in About the Bayberry Bush

Next, to visit the waterfront nearby.
Heading south toward Shinnecock Bay.
Shinnecock Bay facing west
Probably Shinnecock Bay
Robert on Pier with Mary Content and unidentified female
Parrish Museum photo via 
A sunny Day at Shinnecock Bay - William Merritt Chase
18 1/2 " x 23 3/4" c. 1892 private collection
photo via
Beached boat Shinnecock
Robert and Helen standing Mary and Roland seated
Parrish Museum photo via
Helen Chase
Parrish Museum photo via
The views that Chase captured are still here.
Do you see them too?

Heading north towards Peconic Bay.
We drove to the end of Clam Road.
Shell Beach at Shinnecock by William Merritt Chase
c. 1892 private collection photo via
The view north, 120+ years later, is still pure W.M. Chase.
Shinnecock Hills, Peconic Bay - William Merritt Chase
24" x 35 1/4" c. 1892-1902
private collection
photo via
The Shinnecock Summer School of Art was led by William Merritt Chase from 1891 - 1902. The Art Village is still marked on local maps.
Every book about Chase that I have read so far references quotes by him from a book written by Katharine Metcalf Roof, one of his students. The Life and Art of William Merritt Chase, published in 1917, contains a forward by Alice Gerson Chase. Happily, I found this book online for free here.  It is such a time capsule! I've been thinking of Chase's admonitions as I've worked on my own painting this week.
Students William Merritt Chase c.1900
Parrish Art Museum Collection via
"Don't try to make comparisons between your own pictures. Forget what you have done and think only of making the best of what you are doing."-William Merritt Chase 
( Life and Art of WMC, Katharine Metcalf Roof)
William Merritt Chase and students late 1890s
Parrish Museum photo via
"Combine a certain amount of indifference with your ambition. Be carefully careless. If you don't succeed today, there is always tomorrow."-William Merritt Chase 
( Life and Art of WMC, Katharine Metcalf Roof)
Willilam Merritt Chase c.1900
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institute
Rockwell Kent papers, photo via
"Do not try to paint the grandiose thing. Paint the commonplace so that it will be distinguished."
- William Merrit Chase  
(Life and Art of WMC, Katharine Metcalf Roof)
Art Village image via
"The school was located at Art Village, about three miles down the slope from the site of The Bayberry Bush. It offered a studio for use on rainy days, a large room for critiques, a supply storage, a dormitory and dining room and a group of small houses. Art Village is still known by this name; the original buildings, now reconfigured, are private residences." - Ingrid Schaffner from About the Bayberry Bush
We drove down Studio Lane - PRIVATE on the Art Village map.
I was so intimidated by the private sign that I only took  photos of this cottage that looked abandoned. It is still very sweet.
Essential artist that he was, he was ever humble before the great spirit of art. In his mind there remained always the distance between his ideal and his achievement, a deep feeling expressed once when, after showing a number of his pictures to a guest, he pointed to a blank canvas. "But that is my masterpiece" he said, "my unpainted picture." Life and Art of William Merritt Chase - Katharine Metcalf Roof

Many thanks to my husband, Hugh, for driving me all around the Shinnecock Hills as I navigated using various high and low tech mapping devices. This is just a starter kit...

More Reading
The Life and Art of William Merritt Chase, Katharine Metcalf Roof here
About the Bayberry Bush by Ingrid Schaffner with Melissa Feldman here
Houses of the Hamptons 1880-1930 by Gary Lawrance and Anne Surchin here
William Merritt Chase by Barbara Gallati here
Books by Ronald Pisano here
Parrish Curator, Alicia Longwell discusses Chase - video here
Article from Art and Architectural Quarterly here
Article from Brooklyn Museum of art here
William Merritt Chase essay from the Met Museum here
Art Colonies and American Impressionism by Deborah Epstein Solon here
Wiki Art has an app here which is nice, but doesn't include painting size or ownership


  1. I envy your area..thank you for enlightening me to his works.some are familiar..I love them!
    Private..intimidates me too!
    What a lovely drive..
    You two are a lovely couple.
    Was a picnic involved?

    1. No picnic, but a nice swim when we were done driving around! About halfway through my "mission" I realized I was being a little nutty... Now that I did it, you don't have to!

  2. Gail, what a wonderful "essay" on William Merritt Chase. I learned so much! Thank you.

    1. Thank you, Sunday! Now I think we need something fun like your recent post, which I loved!


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