William Merritt Chase
1849-1916 | American
Coastal Landscape, California (Carmel-by- the-Sea)
Signed "Chase" (lower left)
Oil on canvas
One of the most important American artists of his generation, William Merritt Chase and his remarkable landscapes stand among the finest achievements of American Impressionism. Coastal Landscape, California (Carmel-by- the-Sea) demonstrates the modern perspectives, bold brushstrokes and essential use of color that defines his distinctive style. Capturing the sand, shrubs, skies and blue waters of coastal California, the oil represents the last great artistic period of this great painter.
In 1914, Chase was invited to teach a summer class in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. The class would be the last that he ever taught, and also his largest with over one hundred pupils in attendance. He had an extraordinary natural talent for teaching, taking his students on trips around the area to compose works en plein air, while also occasionally demonstrating his technique by dashing off a composition. Coastal Landscape, California is one such work - Chase composed the piece during a demonstration for his students. It can be identified as such by the artist's signature, "Chase," rather than the more formal "Wm. M. Chase" that he generally used. According to Ronald Pisano in his catalogue raisonné of the artist's works, "[Chase] is reputed to have thrilled students when within minutes of beginning a work he would capture the essence of the subject before him."
In this canvas, the compact horizon and vigorous upward zig-zagging spread of meadow ocean, cliffs and sky demonstrate Chase's compositional sophistication. The uptilting of the image and extreme cropping recalls the same techniques in contemporary French painting, particularly the work of Edgar Degas who was inspired by Japanese woodblock prints. The influence of Degas would have been strong at the time this work was painted; while Chase was in Carmel, he began executing monotype prints that bear the same flattened format as this picture and were very much influenced by Degas’ monotype renderings. With its somewhat abstract vertical arrangement of the vista, Coastal Landscape, California is perhaps one of Chase’s most strongly modern canvases.
Born in 1849 in Indiana, Chase showed an early interest in art, studying under local artists Barton S. Hays and Jacob Cox. After studying in Indianapolis and later at New York's National Academy of Design, Chase gained the sponsorship of a group of local St. Louis businessmen to study abroad in 1872. Rather than choosing Paris like many of his contemporaries, Chase decided to study at the academy in Munich, where he fell under the influence of Wilhelm Leibel, a painter renowned for his dramatic chiaroscuro. During these early years, Chase borrowed from a number of European artistic traditions, including the Old Masters.
He returned to New York in 1878, and by the 1880s he began to update his style to mimic the Impressionists in France, particularly Édouard Manet. He pursued a distinctly new modern style, capturing urban scenes in New York that recalled the canvases of Edgar Degas, Gustave Caillebotte and Claude Monet. By 1891, when he first began to summer in Shinnecock Hills, his American Impressionist style was nearly fully developed and highly successful, earning him critical acclaim and winning him innumerable honors at home and abroad. Today his works can be found in nearly every important public collection of American art, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), the National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and many others.
Canvas: 25" high x 19" wide
Frame: 34" high x 28 1/4" wide
The Complete Catalogue of Known and Documented Work by William Merritt Chase (1849–1916), vol. 3, New Haven, 2009, by R. Pisano, p.155, L.327.
Louise Crow (gifted by the artist)
Private Collection (by descent from above, until 2001)
Butterfields, Los Angeles, California, 12 December 2001, lot 5206
Questroyal Fine Art, LLC, New York
Carl and Antoinette Carlie, Chesterfield, Missouri, 2003