William Merritt Chase1849 - 1916
Born: November 1, 1849, Williamsburg, Indiana
Died: October 15, 1916, New York, New York
William Merrit Chase is among the leading American painters of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. From 1872 to 1878, he studied painting at the Royal Academy in Munich where he developed the shadowed palette, slashing brushwork, and animated surface characteristic of his early work. In 1878, he left Munich and returned to the United States becoming one of the most popular artists and influential teachers of his period.
Once Chase established his studio in New York City, he supported himself primarily through commissions for portraits and still lifes. He began his now-famous concentration on fish when he was in Venice in 1878. Borrowing fresh fish from merchants, he worked quickly so he could return the fish to the fishmonger before it spoiled. His hallmark rapid, powerful brushwork resulted from this exercise. Of Chase's still lifes, more than half depict fish.
Shortly after his death, the great critic and collector, Duncan Phillips, proclaimed Chase "unequalled by any other painter in the representation of the shiny, slippery, fishiness of fish." During his life, Chase's style as a painter changed dramatically from dark portraits and still lifes to his light plein-air landscape compositions. Unlike his contemporaries, Chase portrayed the candid beauty of the American landscape in his paintings, rather than the more common and idealized European subjects. He is often referred to as one of America's premier Impressionist painters.
(Quote source: Philips, Duncan. "William Merritt Chase," The American Magazine of Art 2, no. 8 (December 1916), 49.)