Akron Art Museum Archives
William Merritt Chase
(Williamsburg (now Nineveh), Indiana, 1849 - 1916, New York, New York)
Born in Williamsburg, Indiana, Chase moved with his family to Indianapolis where he took painting lessons with a portraitist. In 1869, Chase went to New York City to attend the National Academy of Design. Three years later, he began supporting himself as a still-life and portrait painter in St. Louis. Funds from several local businessmen enabled him to study at the Munich Royal Academy of Arts, where he associated with fellow students Frank Dubeneck, John Henry Twachtman and J. Frank Currier. Under their influence, he adopted the dark palette and bravura brush of the Munich School.
Arriving in New York City in 1878, he quickly became recognized as a leader of the younger generation of American artists who opposed the meticulously detailed, highly finished style favored at the National Academy of Design.
Returning to Europe, he spent time in Paris with Julian Alden Weir, John Singer Sargent and Alfred Stevens, in Madrid studying the painting of Diego Velásquez, and in Holland painting plein air genre scenes. In 1886, he returned to America, settling in Brooklyn.
From 1878 to 1910, Chase was probably the most influential art teacher in America. Among his students were Robert Henri, Georgia O’Keeffe, Helen Turner, Charles Hawthorne, Rockwell Kent, Charles Demuth, Charles Sheeler, and Edward Hopper. Once considered an innovative, radical artist, in his later years Chase came to be regarded as academic and conservative. His “art for art’s sake” philosophy was severely attacked by Henri and his group, the Eight (the Ashcan School). Nonetheless, others continued to admire the venerable old artist, who painted religiously until his death in 1916.