William Merritt Chase

A Modern Master

June 4 - September 11, 2016

Exhibition Images

American artist William Merritt Chase (b. Indiana, 1849–d. New York, 1916), a renowned figure in the international art circles of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was a brilliant observer of contemporary life, an innovative painter, and an influential teacher. This retrospective presented on the centennial year of the artist’s death explores the full range of Chase’s multifaceted artistic practice, from striking portraits and still lifes to glorious urban park scenes, landscapes, and interiors. In a career that straddled two continents and two centuries, Chase was, in the words of American art critic Frank Jewett Mather, “a citizen of the world.”

Featuring more than 70 artworks, this exhibition examines Chase’s achievements spanning his four-decade long career. The exhibition starts with works from his formative years in Munich, where he studied Dutch, Spanish, and French masters, and follows his subsequent career in New York City where he established himself as a tastemaker in his grand Tenth Street Studio. Chase spent summers in Long Island directing the largest plein-air school, and later established the Chase School of Art, all the while exhibiting his work to wide acclaim in both America and Europe. The exhibition also focuses on Chase’s role as a highly influential and devoted teacher, who trained and inspired the next generation of American artists, from Georgia O’Keeffe and Marsden Hartley to Edward Hopper and Joseph Stella.

The exhibition includes several fine examples of Chase’s pastels to highlight the integral role the medium played within Chase’s oeuvre. A co-founder of the progressive Society of American Painters in Pastel, Chase was a leader in the late 19th-century revival of pastel painting and one of its most innovative practitioners. Throughout his career, Chase experimented with pastel alongside his work in oil, translating the painterly qualities of wet color to the velvety effects of dry pigment.

William Merritt Chase: A Modern Master provides a nuanced understanding of the artist’s vital place within the history of American art and his lasting legacy in the art of our time.

The Students of William Merritt Chase

As a teacher he probably exercised a wider influence on American painting than any other artist has ever done.—Kenyon Cox, 1922

William Merritt Chase began his teaching career in 1878 at one of the first established art schools in America, The Art Students League. The school, founded in New York in 1875 by artists seeking to break free from the academic, restrictive conventions of the National Academy of Design, offered a more liberal approach sympathetic to the new modern spirit in American art. There Chase began what would become a lifelong commitment to teaching alongside his artistic practice, quickly establishing a reputation as a magnetic yet demanding teacher.

Chase divided his teaching among all the major art schools in America at the time. He taught at The Art Students League (1878–1896 and 1907–1911), Brooklyn Art School (1887–1895), Art Institute of Chicago (1894; 1897–98), Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1896–1909), and Hartford Art School (1900–1905). Chase even established the Chase School of Art, later renamed the New York School of Art (1896–1907). For 12 years, he directed the Shinnecock Summer School of Art (1891–1902), the largest plein-air art school in America. In later years, he held summer classes abroad in Europe and also in California. Chase’s instruction impacted the lives of thousands of students.

Chase instilled in his students his love of painting and encouraged them to pursue what he considered to be “one of the most honorable of all professions.” In regular demonstrations in which Chase dashed off paintings in one sitting, he modeled the technical virtuosity that he sought to develop in his students. As Chase told his students: “Play with your paint, be happy over it, sing at your work.”

On view in the galleries adjoining the Chase exhibition is a selection of works by Chase’s students from the Phillips’s permanent collection. Although many of the works were not completed during Chase’s lifetime, they provide a glimpse into the impact of his pedagogy on the next generation of American artists in the early 20th century. 

After William Merritt Chase: A Modern Master visits Washington, DC, the exhibition heads to its next venue at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (October 9, 2016–January 16, 2017), and we're sending one grand prize winner (and guest) with it! We are also giving away three monthly prize packages. To enter, follow the below instructions. Entries must be received by 5 pm Eastern Daylight Time on September 11, 2016.


Which William Merritt Chase artwork inspires you most? Choose from the images below (click to open a version that can be saved) and share your favorite on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter with a brief description of why you chose it for a chance to win travel and accommodations for two to Boston. To be entered, posts must include #ChaseTheArt and #ChaseAtPhillips. These images are also available on dropbox and the Phillips's Facebook album.


One grand prize winner will win a package including:

  • $500 total for roundtrip transportation for two (2) adults on American Airlines
  • Two (2) consecutive weekend nights accommodation for two (2) adults at Nine Zero, a Kimpton Hotel
  • $100 gift certificate for a dinner for two at any Grafton Group restaurant
  • $100 gift certificate for a dinner for two at The Union Oyster House, America's oldest restaurant
  • General Admission for two (2) adults to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which includes entry to the exhibition, William Merritt Chase

A total of three monthly winners will be selected (on June 29, July 27, and August 24) to win a prize package including:

  • Dual/Family Membership to The Phillips Collection
  • William Merritt Chase: A Modern Master exhibition catalogue


No purchase necessary to enter or win. Must be 18+. Entries close at 5 pm Eastern Daylight Time on September 11, 2016. One entry per social media account. 

See Full Terms and Conditions



The exhibition is organized by The Phillips Collection, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, Venice, and the Terra Foundation for American Art.

With the generous support of the Terra Foundation for American Art



Additional support is provided by The Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts, Share Fund, and the MARPAT Foundation.

Brought to you by the Exhibition Committee for William Merritt Chase: A Modern Master: Robert Rea, Toni A. Ritzenberg, and Arthur and Barbara Rothkopf.

Additional in-kind support provided by 

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