William Merritt Chase

(1849-1916)

Most of Chase’s landscapes from the mid 1880's were executed in Brooklyn. The small boat with the striped awning in the background of this work recalls a similar detail in two other paintings known to have been set in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park (Summertime and Boat House Prospect Park, Private Collections). Chase began to pursue plein air painting seriously during his excursions to Prospect and Central Parks in the mid and late 1880s. Pisano has speculated that with Chase’s marriage in 1886 and his subsequent family responsibilities, he was forced to find suitable subjects close to home (A Leading Spirit in American Art, William Merritt Chase, 1849-1916 [Seattle: Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, 1983], p. 150). The artist himself remarked that “there are charming bits in Central and Prospect Park, Brooklyn….Along the docks and wharves there is every bit as good material as that on the banks of the Thames” (quoted in Katharine Metcalf Roof, “William Merritt Chase: The Man and the Artist,” Century Magazine [April 1917]: 834).

The critical reception to Chase's park scenes in America was overwhelmingly positive. Artist and critic Kenyon Cox praised their distinctive “American quality,” which constituted the “proof that it is not subjects that are lacking in this country, but eyes to see them with” (“William Merritt Chase, Painter,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, 78 [March 1889]: 556). Charles de Kay reflected that Chase had been “slowly won away from entangling alliances with his masters in Paris and Munich” (“Mr. Chase and Central Park,” Harper's Weekly 35 [May 1891]: 327 as quoted in Pisano, p. 150).