Mrs. Ira Dimock, Hartford, Connecticut
MacBeth Galleries, New York, New York
Acquired by Edwin C. Shaw, Akron, Ohio, 1923
Bequest to Akron Art Institute (Museum), 1955
2007 - : McDowell galleries, 7/7/07 - , Akron Art Museum
2004 - 2006: "American Impressions: An Arcadian Vision: Paintings from the Akron Art Museum" Organized by the Trust for Museum Exhibitions and Akron Art Museum: Tour
4/8/04 - 6/6/04, The Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca Raton, Florida
9/17/04 - 11/28/04, University Art Museum, Lafayette, Louisiana
12/18/04 - 2/27/05, Appleton Museum of Art, Ocala, Florida
3/12/05 - 5/22/05, Fresno Metropolitan Museum, Fresno, California
6/4/05 - 9/5/05, The Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, New York
10/8/05 - 12/4/05, Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga, Tennessee
12/16/05 - 3/12/06, Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, Ohio
2003: "In a Romantic Mood: American Impressionists and Their Era" 6/14/03 - 8/24/03, Akron Art Museum
1997 - 1998: "A 75th Anniversary Celebration of the Collection" 11/15/97 - 1/11/98, Akron Art Museum
1995: "A Legacy of Beauty: Paintings and Prints from the Edwin C. Shaw Bequest" 6/17/95 - 8/27/95, Akron Art Museum
1994: "The Lure of the Exotic: Watercolors by Frederic Schell and Turn-of-the-Century Photographs" 6/25/94 - 8/21/94, Akron Art Museum
1992: "Impressionism and Tonalism from the Akron Art Museum Collection" 9/12/92 - 11/8/92, Akron Art Museum
1991 - 1992: "Focus on the Collection: A 70th Anniversary Celebration" 11/3/91 - 1/5/92, Akron Art Museum
1989: "Turn-of-the-Century Paintings from the Permanent Collection" 2/17/89 - 8/13/89, Akron Art Museum
1988 - 1989: "American Paintings 1880-1917" 2/24/88 - 2/12/89, Akron Art Museum
1986 - 1987: "The Human Presence" 11/1/86-5/10/87, Akron Art Museum
1986: "The Edwin C. Shaw Collection of American Impressionist and Tonalist Painting" 4/19/86 - 6/29/86, Akron Art Museum (No. 4)
1983 - 1984: "Wiliam Merritt Chase Retrospective" tour, organized by Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
9/30/83 - 1/29/83, Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
3/84 - 5/84, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York
1982: "William Merritt Chase: Portraits" 6/5/82 - 8/29/82, Akron Art Museum
1955: "The Edwin C. Shaw Collection of Paintings" 10/11/55 - 11/23/55, Akron Art Institute (Museum) (No. 4)
1949: "Chase Centennial Exhibition" 11/1/49 - 12/11/49 John Herron Museum of Art (now known as the Indianapolis Museum of Art), Indianapolis, Indiana
Signed "Wm M Chase" LL
On back of stretcher in black: "AAI 55.16"
William Merritt Chase
Girl in White, around 1901
Collection of the Akron Art Museum
The late nineteenth and early twentieth century was a period of immense social and economic change in the United States. As this country's industrial base grew and vast personal fortunes were made, many of the newly prosperous turned to the arts to signify their status. Portraits found new favor among the affluent¬, particularly imposing likenesses in the grand manner that had long been the mark of wealth and class in Europe. When around 1901 the well-established Hartford silk merchant Ira Dimock commissioned William Merritt Chase to paint a large formal portrait of his daughter Florence Irene (1888–1962) to adorn the staircase of his stately Connecticut residence, his decision was not unusual for a man of his means.1
Dimock chose wisely. The fifty-two-year-old artist was a formidable figure in the art world, with a reputation matched by few of his contemporaries. Chase’s exceptional talent was recognized when he was still a young man. In 1871, after studying briefly in New York at the National Academy of Design, he returned to his family, then living in St. Louis. Several local businessmen sensed his unusual ability and gave him the funds to study at the Royal Academy of Art in Munich. While a student there, he won a medal at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Success followed success. During the 1880s and 1890s there were few important art exhibitions in which Chase was not invited to participate and few in which he was not singled out for critical praise.
An ebullient personality who was well-liked by his fellow artists, Chase was an integral part of the social and political milieu fundamental to the art world of the time. He was a pivotal figure in numerous artists' organizations, including the Society of American Artists, formed in the late 1870s to show art that was more avant-garde than that displayed at the annual National Academy of Design exhibitions. A frequent traveler abroad, Chase also established friendships with expatriates John Singer Sargent and James McNeill Whistler as well as numerous distinguished European artists. Chase taught, too—at the Art Students League, the Brooklyn Art Association, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and at his own schools in New York City in the winter and on Long Island at Shinnecock during the summer. He earned the admiration of a large number of his students. It was through classes taken with Chase that Irene's older sister and the Dimock family first came to know the renowned artist.2
Girl in White brings together numerous characteristics of Chase's mature painting style. Beginning in the mid-1880s, he repeatedly and with great success filled his canvas with a full-length standing figure set against a subtly modulated background. Whistler's influence is evident in Chase's composition and his concern with tonal nuances. His sensuous, free-flowing brushstrokes reflect his longstanding admiration for the technique of Franz Hals, a seventeenth-century Dutch painter, and Diego Velázquez, Hals's Spanish peer. Chase loved the elegant and the beautiful: his studio was known for its abundance of luxurious textiles, metal objects, and elaborate furniture. The care and attention he gave to Irene Dimock's white silk and lace dress and black feather hat attest to his fascination with luscious and sumptuous objects.
A nephew subsequently claimed that the formality of Chase's portrait of Irene belied his aunt's "madcap" nature. The subject and her family, however, seem to have understood that Chase selected the rather fanciful and theatrical pose "with an idea of its ultimate value as a work of art, rather than a portrait."3
- Carolyn Kinder Carr, 2001
1. The painting was dated 1898 by Mrs. William Merritt Chase on the reverse of a photograph, but Edith Dimock Glackens in a January 26, 1923, letter to William Macbeth dates the painting to 1901. From the appearance of the sitter, it is more likely that she was thirteen rather than ten. All correspondence related to this painting can be found in the Edwin C. Shaw Papers, Akron Art Museum archives.
2. This older sister, Edith Louise Dimock, later married painter William Glackens (1870–1938).
3. Letter from Ira Glackens to Carolyn Kinder Carr, January 28, 1982, Akron Art Museum archives; letter from Edith Dimock Glackens to William Macbeth, January 26, 1923, Edwin C. Shaw Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Carr, Carolyn Kinder. William Merritt Chase: Portraits. Akron: Akron Art Museum, 1982.
Gallatti, Barbara Dayer. William Merritt Chase. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1995.
Pisano, Ronald. William Merritt Chase 1849–1916: A Leading Spirit in American Art. Seattle: Henry Art Gallery, 1983.
Roof, Katherine Metcalf. The Life and Art of William Merritt Chase. New York: Hacker Art Books, 1975.
Roof, Katherine Metcalf. The Life and Art of William Merritt Chase. New York: Scribner, 1917. Reprint, New York: Hacker Art Books, 1975.