Terra Foundation Announces Internationally Collaborative William Merritt Chase Exhibition, First in More Than 30 Years

  • CHICAGO, Illinois
  • /
  • June 02, 2016

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William Merritt Chase, The Young Orphan, 1884. Oil on canvas. NA diploma presentation, November 24, 1890. National Academy Museum, New York

The Terra Foundation for American Art has announced William Merritt Chase: A Modern Master, the first retrospective of the artist’s work in more than three decades and the first to travel internationally. Co-organized by The Phillips Collection; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Fondazione Musei Civici Venezia; and the Terra Foundation, the exhibition opens at The Phillips Collection (June 4–September 11) before traveling to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (October 9, 2016–January 16, 2017), and the International Gallery of Modern Art, in Venice, Italy (February 10–May 28, 2017).

“This internationally collaborative exhibition exemplifies our efforts to connect people across the globe with American art, inspiring new perspectives and cultivating meaningful cross-cultural dialogues,” explained Terra Foundation President & CEO Elizabeth Glassman. “It also demonstrates the broad scope of our Terra Collection Initiatives, projects in which we provide curatorial expertise and works from our collection in addition to financial support.”

William Merritt Chase showcases more than 60 of the artist’s best works, including portraits and figurative paintings, urban park scenes, domestic interiors, still lifes, and landscapes, from all phases of Chase’s four-decade-long career. Among them are Morning at Breakwater, Shinnecock (c. 1897) and Ready for a Walk (c. 1885), masterpieces from the Terra Foundation collection.

The exhibition also includes several fine examples of Chase’s pastels. A co-founder of the progressive Society of American Painters in Pastel, Chase was a leader in the late nineteenth-century revival of pastel painting and one of its most innovative practitioners. Throughout his career, he experimented with pastel alongside his work in oil, translating the painterly qualities of wet color to the velvety effects of dry pigment.

“Three pastels from our collection are featured in the exhibition, including the extraordinarily well-executed Spring Flowers (Peonies) (shown above), which highlights Chase’s mastery of the medium and its integral role in his oeuvre,” stated Terra Foundation Curator Katherine Bourguignon, a co-organizer of the show. “These works seldom travel because of their delicacy, but this exhibition provides a rare opportunity to situate them alongside major oil paintings of the period.”

Trained in Germany, Chase traveled and exhibited in Europe throughout his career, and made a second home in Italy toward the end of his life. Through his painting and teaching, he led a generation of American artists toward international recognition.

“Our founder, Daniel J. Terra, who purchased several works by Chase, was attracted by the artist’s bravura brushwork and masterful pastel technique,” added Glassman. “But it was Chase’s eagerness to promote American art that aligns most with the Terra Foundation’s mission to foster the exploration, understanding, and enjoyment of the visual arts of the United States.”

In addition to being a curatorial partner, making a grant to each venue, and lending works to the show, the Terra Foundation sponsored three pre-exhibition convenings, which enabled the organizers to come together and fully explore and articulate the international context of Chase’s paintings.

“Chase once said, ‘Art has become international…the best of art today belongs to all countries combined and localization has been entirely done away with,’ and this curatorial team’s rigorous intellectual study is aptly driven by an international approach,” said The Phillips Collection Director Dorothy Kosinski. “A growing interest in transnational approaches to historical American art makes it a timely moment for a major Chase exhibition and an unprecedented opportunity to introduce international audiences to a preeminent American artist who is largely unknown outside the United States.”

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue. Entitled William Merritt Chase: A Modern Master, it is published by The Phillips Collection in association with Yale University Press, with essays by the exhibition’s four curators:

William Merritt Chase, Spring Flowers (Peonies), by 1889. Pastel on paper, prepared with a tan ground, and wrapped with canvas around a wooden strainer. Image: 48 x 48in. (121.9 x 121.9cm) Frame: 57 1/2 × 57 1/2 × 4 1/2in. (146.1 × 146.1 × 11.4cm).
Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Te...
  • Katherine M. Bourguignon, curator, Terra Foundation for American Art;
  • Giovanna Ginex, independent scholar for the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia;
  • Erica E. Hirshler, Croll Senior Curator of American Paintings, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and
  • Elsa Smithgall, curator, The Phillips Collection.

The catalogue also includes an essay by John Davis, a prominent Americanist and Terra Foundation Executive Director for Europe and Global Academic Programs, and a foreword by D. Frederick Baker, director of the Chase Catalogue Raisonné Project.

Terra Foundation for American Art
Established in 1978, the Terra Foundation for American Art is dedicated to fostering the exploration, understanding, and enjoyment of the visual arts of the United States. With financial resources of more than $350 million, an exceptional collection of American art from the colonial era to 1945, and an expansive grant program, it is one of the leading foundations focused on American art, supporting exhibitions, academic programs, and research worldwide.

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