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  • William Merritt Chase
    Nov 1, 1849 - Oct 25, 1916
  • Back of a Nude (Study of Flesh Color and Gold) - William Merritt Chase was an American painter known as an exponent of Impressionism and as a teacher. He is also responsible for establishing the Chase School, which later would become Parsons The New School for Design. Chase painted a wide range of subjects, including figures, landscapes and cityscapes, studio interiors, still lifes, and, increasingly later in life, portraits.
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Back of a Nude (Study of Flesh Color and Gold)
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  • Back of a Nude (Study of Flesh Color and Gold)

  • William Merritt Chase
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  • circa 1888
    pastel on paper
    Private collection.

    William Merritt Chase (1849–1916), one of New York’s most prominent artists in the 1880s, surpassed all others in the use of pastel. In his adept hands, pastel’s chalky matter rivaled the authority of oil paint, though with greater receptivity to light and an unmatched velvety texture. Chase produced more than one hundred pastels in the 1880s, increasing the visibility of the medium in exhibitions and promoting the technique with forward-looking artists of the day.

    The pastel has borne more than one title since its making. The Gallery has reinstated Study of Flesh Color and Gold, which was used when the pastel was exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1897 and is reminiscent of titles favored by James McNeill Whistler. Consider, for example, Whistler’s Nocturne in Black and Gold or his Arrangement in Flesh Colour and Black. Chase was an exuberant admirer of Whistler’s work and sought out his acquaintance while on a trip to London in 1885. By all accounts the two men got along famously, but Chase eventually tired of the older artist’s quarrelsome behavior. Nonetheless, he maintained respect for Whistler’s work and continued to laud his accomplishments.

    In Study of Flesh Color and Gold, Chase applied the pastel relatively densely and with exceptional vigor, maneuvering the colored crayon as one would a brush loaded with oil paint. In keeping with the contemporary vogue for Japonisme, Chase (like Whistler) adopted Japanese props. He tilted the picture plane and cropped the composition, devices common to Japanese prints. Like Kitagawa Utamaro, whose eighteenth-century prints were coveted by avant-garde artists at the time, Chase focused on the figure’s bare back. But he heightened the effect—to the point of its being somewhat startling—by placing the model in the extreme forefront of the composition, adding a modern sensibility to a traditional Japanese subject.

    Margaret and Raymond Horowitz began acquiring art in the mid-1960s, assembling one of the finest collections of American impressionist and realist works in private hands, a selection of which was the subject of an exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in 1999. In addition to this sumptuous pastel by Chase, the Gallery has been the beneficiary of other gifts from the Horowitz collection, including a superb painting from 1891 by Childe Hassam, Poppies, Isles of Shoals

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  • Kaizhou,

    This is beautiful! We are so pleased with the work. We appreciate your professionalism and talent!

Other paintings by William Merritt Chase:

The Bayberry Bush (Chase Homestead: Shinnecock Hills)
The Bayberry Bush (Chase Homestead: Shinnecock Hills)
Sunlight and Shadow, Shinnecock Hills
Sunlight and Shadow, Shinnecock Hills
A Study (The Artist's Wife)
A Study (The Artist's Wife)
William Merritt ChaseWilliam Merritt Chase was born in Ninevah, Indiana. He studied in Indianapolis, then (in 1869) went to New York and studied briefly at the National Academy of Design. In 1872, after working for two years as a still life painter in St. Louis, several leading citizens and art patrons sponsored a five year trip to Munich where he was greatly influenced by the style of the Munich Artists. Upon his return to New York in 1878 he opened his Tenth Street Studio where he developed a style more vibrant and brightly colored, finding in Impressionism a means of conveying the emotion in both landscapes and city scenes. He did most of his later work in and around New York City, producing both urban and pastoral studies, which were realistically portrayed, yet infused with nuances of light, color, and brushwork, and conveyed the subjectivity of his interpretations. Such were the artistic styles and intentions of Chase; he considered himself a realist, but felt that Impressionistic techniques provided a means of expressing emotions - which are a part of the artists' reality.

Chase was a member of the Ten (Ten American Painters), but also devoted much of his time to teaching, first at his New York studio, than at the Students League. He also taught at his summer home in Shinnecock, Long Island, at the Chase School (which he founded), and later at the New York School of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. His students included Marsden Hartley, Charles Demuth , Edward Hopper , Georgia O'Keeffe , and Charles Sheeler. His achievements as an artist and teacher reflect the impact of the Impressionist movement in American culture; Chase not only pursued artistic innovation, but also brought progress to academic institutions of art. He died in New York in 1916.