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William Merritt Chase

A Modern Master


$12 for adults; $10 for students as well as visitors 62 and over; free for members and visitors 18 and under.

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Teacher Extraordinaire

As a teacher he probably exercised a wider influence on American painting than any other artist has ever done.—Kenyon Cox, 1922

William Merritt Chase began his teaching career in 1878 at one of the first established art schools in America, The Art Students League. The school, founded in New York in 1875 by artists seeking to break free from the academic, restrictive conventions of the National Academy of Design, offered a more liberal approach sympathetic to the new modern spirit in American art. There Chase began what would become a lifelong commitment to teaching alongside his artistic practice, quickly establishing a reputation as a magnetic yet demanding teacher.

Chase divided his teaching among all the major art schools in America at the time. He taught at The Art Students League (1878–1896 and 1907–1911), Brooklyn Art School (1887–1895), Art Institute of Chicago (1894; 1897–98), Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1896–1909), and Hartford Art School (1900–1905). Chase even established the Chase School of Art, later renamed the New York School of Art (1896–1907). For 12 years, he directed the Shinnecock Summer School of Art (1891–1902), the largest plein-air art school in America. In later years, he held summer classes abroad in Europe and also in California. Chase’s instruction impacted the lives of thousands of students.

Chase instilled in his students his love of painting and encouraged them to pursue what he considered to be “one of the most honorable of all professions.” In regular demonstrations in which Chase dashed off paintings in one sitting, he modeled the technical virtuosity that he sought to develop in his students. As Chase told his students: “Play with your paint, be happy over it, sing at your work.”

On view in the galleries adjoining the Chase exhibition is a selection of works by Chase’s students from the Phillips’s permanent collection. Although many of the works were not completed during Chase’s lifetime, they provide a glimpse into the impact of his pedagogy on the next generation of American artists in the early 20th century. 

Exhibition Support

The exhibition is organized by The Phillips Collection, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, Venice, and the Terra Foundation for American Art.

With the generous support of the Terra Foundation for American Art

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Additional support is provided by The Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts, Share Fund, and the MARPAT Foundation.

Brought to you by the Exhibition Committee for William Merritt Chase: A Modern Master: Robert Rea, Toni A. Ritzenberg, and Arthur and Barbara Rothkopf.

Additional in-kind support provided by 

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