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"William Merritt Chase: Modern American Landscapes, 1886–1890"
2000-12-17 until 2001-03-09
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Houston, TX, USA

William Merritt Chase’s beautiful paintings and pastels of urban parks and public spaces are the first major American landscapes executed in the Impressionist technique. The landscapes, marking a pivotal period in American art history, led Chase to a breakthrough in his painting career and renewed acclaim from art critics.

William Merritt Chase: Modern American Landscapes, 1886–1890 presents a remarkable group of the painter’s outdoor scenes of New York. The exhibition includes intriguing views of Central Park, Brooklyn’s Prospect and Tompkins parks, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Gowanus Bay, Bath Beach, and Chase’s family backyard in Brooklyn.

In his early career, Chase (1849–1916) was hailed as a genius bound to transform American art upon his return from his training in Munich in the 1870s. But by 1885, critics were assailing Chase’s work as too closely aligned with the Munich style and lacking truly American subjects. Also, the artist was working at a time of heightened attention to declining morals among city dwellers. His audience in the United States demanded art that reinforced its nationalist sentiments and desire to preserve social order. Chase answered his critics by applying the French avant-garde concept of the detached observer of modern life to American urban landscapes. He chose as his subjects the parks and harbors of New York—deliberately focusing on this subject matter to underscore the civility of modern American culture.

This highly focused exhibition of approximately 30 works reflects new research into Chase’s life and into the locations of his urban landscapes, shedding light on a beautiful and significant aspect of the artist’s work— his first serious exploration of the American landscape and his pioneering work as an American Impressionist.

William Merritt Chase: Modern American Landscapes, 1886–1890 has been made possible by the generous support of Charles Butt; The New York Community Trust—Neuberger Berman, LLC Fund; Mr. and Mrs. Meredith J. Long; and Samuel F. Gorman.

IMAGE:
William Merritt Chase
A City Park, 1887
oil on canvas
Art Institute of Chicago
bequest of Dr. John J. Ireland.


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