William Merritt Chase at the MFA

Spending time at the MFA is always a delight, but it is more often than not on rainy or windy or snowy days that I feel the pull to wander those halls. I always feel so lucky to have it as a retreat and a way to gain a new perspective or simply see something beautiful.

This week I realized I was running out of time to see the William Merritt Chase exhibition at the MFA, so Serena and I met my mom over there to spend a few hours. I definitely recommend that you try to see it before it closes on January 16, especially if you are a fan of impressionism! I did not know his work, and although he was a leader and respected in his lifetime (1849-1916), he is not as well-known today as some of his contemporaries.

Studio Interior William Merritt Chase (American, 1849–1916) about 1882 Oil on canvas *Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mrs. Carll H. de Silver in memory of her husband *Brooklyn Museum photograph *Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Studio Interior, William Merritt Chase, about 1882, Oil on canvas
Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mrs. Carll H. de Silver in memory of her husband
Brooklyn Museum photograph, Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Some of his works made me think of Mary Cassatt or John Singer Sargent, both who were working at the same time. Chase’s studio was full of sumptuous and exotic props, which made his way into some of his works. The exhibition also featured some of his arresting portraits of women, including the one below of Dora Wheeler, an artist herself.

Portrait of Dora Wheeler William Merritt Chase (American, 1849–1916) 1882‑1883 Oil on canvas *The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Boudinot Keith in memory of Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Wade *Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Portrait of Dora Wheeler, William Merritt Chase, 1882‑1883, Oil on canvas
The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Boudinot Keith in memory of Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Wade
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Chase had a beach house on Long Island, and the seaside landscapes based on the environs have so much sunshine and brightness, and seem to capture the gusts of salt air.

At the Seaside William Merritt Chase (American, 1849–1916) about 1892 Oil on canvas *Lent The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot (1876–1967), 1967 *Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

At the Seaside, William Merritt Chase, about 1892, Oil on canvas
Lent The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot (1876–1967), 1967
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

My favorite paintings were the intimate family scenes: his wife with their new daughter on her shoulder, the girls playing in groups of two or three, books laid out across the floor. These particular paintings feel so personal, and so alive. I had to take another swing around the galleries for a final look before leaving.

Hall at Shinnecock William Merritt Chase (American, 1849–1916) 1892 Pastel on canvas *Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection *©Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago *Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Hall at Shinnecock, William Merritt Chase, 1892, Pastel on canvas
Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection
©Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago, Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The Ring Toss William Merritt Chase (American, 1849–1916) about 1896 Oil on canvas *The Halff Collection *Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The Ring Toss, William Merritt Chase, about 1896, Oil on canvas
The Half Collection, Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Serena also loved the exhibition, although here she is showing her serious side!

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Even if you miss this one, it feels like there is always something new to discover at the MFA!
P.S. – The museum is free for all on Monday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr!

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