William Merritt Chase (1849-1916)

Landscape: A Shinnecock Vale

William Merritt Chase (1849-1916)
Landscape: A Shinnecock Vale
signed 'Wm. M. Chase' lower left
oil on canvas
26 x 36in. (66 x 91.5cm.)
Sale: New York, American Art Galleries, The Paintings and Other Artistic Property Left by the Late William Merritt Chase, N.A., May 15-16, 1917, no. 283
R. Hosea, acquired from the above
Sale: New York, Fifth Avenue Art Galleries, Property from the Estate of Richard C. Kerens, plus others, January 30-February 1, 1918, no. 52, as A Shinnecock Vale
Newhouse Galleries, Inc., New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above
W. Peat, "Checklist of Known Work by William M. Chase," Chase Centennial Exhibition, John Herron Art Museum, 1949, listed in addendum as A Shinnecock Vale

Lot Essay

During the summers of 1891-1902, William Merritt Chase ran a school of plein air painting at Shinnecock Hills, Long Island, New York. He spent these summers teaching and painting and produced landscape pictures which many of his critics thought to be Chase's best work.

"Its gently rolling, delicately colored land, unobstructed views of the blue water, and ever-changing cloud-filled sky made Shinnecock a wonderfully paintable place." (D.S. Atkinson and N. Cikovsky, Jr., William Merritt Chase: Summers at Shinnecock 1891-1902, Washington, DC, 1987, p. 19) Landscape: A Shinnecock Vale, painted circa 1895, exemplifies the paintings that Chase created from the Shinnecock landscape that surrounded him for twelve years.

"In Chase's work done at Shinnecock Hills...an attempt was made to develop an American statement in landscape painting...a simple, direct expression of nature through technical dexterity, aesthetic sensibility, and individual creativity." (R.G. Pisano, Summer Afternoons: Landscape Paintings of William Merritt Chase, Boston, Massachusetts, 1993, p. 14) Landscape: A Shinnecock Vale possesses so many of these characteristics that were typical of Chase's work during this period. The canvas is divided horizontally, presenting the viewer with a rectangular plane split between the foreground and the sky. Chase used painterly brushwork and muted tones of his palette to create what he thought was most important, "what is behind the eye of the artist." (W.M. Chase in, Summer Afternoons p. 13) It is likely that Chase painted Landscape: A Shinnecock Vale in one sitting.

Chase's Shinnecock landscapes, although distinctly American, were not without European influences. Chase spent several summers traveling in Europe, and although he did not necessarily draw directly from Impressionism, he "like the impressionists, did believe in painting 'on the spot' and 'right under the sky,' with 'all the light I can get,' and he spoke repeatedly of capturing impressions, by which he meant fleeting sensations and transitory effects. The Shinnecock landscapes, particularly, are redolent of nature seen directly, in full light, charged with movement." (William Merritt Chase p. 22).

"Chase's yearly retreat to Shinnecock Hills, painting over and over the landscape he encountered there, demonstrates his desire to establish the perfect balance of space, light, and atmosphere in his quest for the harmony of nature." (William Merritt Chase p. 28)

This painting, executed circa 1895, will be included in Ronald G. Pisano's forthcoming catalogue raisonn of Chase's work.