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William Merritt Chase

Born: 1849, Franklin, Indiana, United States of America
Died: 1916, New York, New York, United States of America

Ready for a Walk
c. 1885

Oil on canvas
Image: 84 x 48 in. (213.4 x 121.9 cm)
Frame: 88 3/4 x 52 3/4 in. (225.4 x 134.0 cm)
Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1992.26
Signed: Unsigned
Artist Name: []

Interpretation

One of many images of women by William Merritt Chase that function as elegant studies of type rather than portraits, Ready for a Walk presents an elegant New Yorker standing in full length in an undefined and unfurnished space. The dark muted colors of the subject’s garment and the setting throw into relief the bright accents of her costume and face. The model, about whom little is known, gazes with frank directness at the viewer, apparently stopped only momentarily on her way outside. The impression of arrested activity, coupled with the specificity of her fashionable daytime apparel, lends this portrait the flavor of urban life in the late nineteenth century, anticipating Chase’s role as an interpreter of the modern city through his landscape paintings.

The title of this portrait echoes Chase’s earlier Ready for the Ride (1877, Union League Club, New York), another study of a solitary woman, which Chase had painted during his student days in Munich. Ready for a Walk demonstrates the confluence of sources in the artist’s work in the intervening years. Chase’s reliance on contrasts of light and dark rather than color recalls the works of baroque painter Diego Velázquez (1599–1660), whom he greatly admired. Under the Spanish master’s influence, the standing full-length portrait, rendered with minimal setting and a dramatically dark palette, was the subject of artistic experimentation by many of Chase’s contemporaries. Among them was the iconoclastic American expatriate artist James McNeill Whistler, whom Chase met in London in 1885, probably not long before he painted this portrait. Ready for a Walk shares with Whistler’s portraits a concern for tonal harmony, decorative unity of effect, and soft brushwork.

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Provenance

The artist
Moore's Art Galleries, New York, March 2–3, 1887, no. 78 (as "Ready for a Walk")
American Art Galleries, New York, January 7, 1896, no. 1181 (as "Ready for a Walk")
Ainslie Galleries, New York
William Rockhill Nelson Trust, Kansas City, Missouri (gift from Ainslie Galleries)
Sotheby's, New York, New York, May 24, 1990, lot 162
Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., New York, New York
Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1992

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Exhibition History

Pictures, Studies and Sketches by Mr. Wm. M. Chase, of New York City, Boston Art Club, Boston, Massachusetts, November-December 1886, no. 23 (as Ready for a Walk).

Face to Face: Portraits from the Collections of Terra Museum of American Art, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, October 8, 1994–April 2, 1995.

Collection Cameo, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, November 1996.

American Treasures: Chase, Whistler, and the Prendergasts, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, April 26, 1996–January 5, 1997.

The Decorative Form: The Aesthetic Movement, Arts & Crafts and the Asian Influence in American Art, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, September 16–December 5, 1999.

New Faces, New Places: Recent Additions to the Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, October 14–December 31, 2000.

(Re)Presenting Women, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, October 16, 2001–January 13, 2002.

Deux collections en regard: oeuvres de la Terra Foundation for the Arts et du Detroit Institute of Arts (Side by Side: Works from the Terra Foundation for the Arts and the Detroit Institute of Arts), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, March 2–June 1, 2003. [exh. cat.]

Visages de l'Amérique: de George Washington à Marilyn Monroe (Faces of America: From George Washington to Marilyn Monroe), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–October 31, 2004. [exh. cat.]

Twarze Ameryki: Portrety z kolekcji Terra Foundation for American Art, 1770–1940 (Faces of America: Portraits from the collection of the Terra Foundation for American Art, 1770–1940), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France and Miedzynarodowe Centrum Kultury (International Cultural Center), Crakow, Poland (organizers). Venue: International Cultural Center, Crakow, Poland, February 15–May 7, 2006. [exh. cat.]

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Published References

Sotheby's New York, New York (Sale 6025, May 24, 1990): lot 162. Ill. lot 162 (color).

Gallati, Barbara Dayer. William Merritt Chase. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1995. Text pp. 100, 102; ill. p. 102 (color).

Ready for a Walk: Beatrice Clough Bachmann, William Merritt Chase. Collection Cameo sheet, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, November 1996. Ill. (black & white).

Gallati, Barbara Dayer. "William Merritt Chase and the French Connection." The Magazine Antiques 158:1 (July 2000): 74–83. Pl. VII, p. 77 (color).

Weinberg, H. Barbara. "William Merritt Chase and the American Taste for Spanish Painting." The Magazine Antiques 163:4 (April 2003): 92–101. Text p. 97; ill. p. 100 (color).

Side by Side: Works from the Terra Foundation for the Arts and the Detroit Institute of Arts. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2003. Text p. 15; ill. p. 14 (color).

Deux collections en regard: oeuvres de la Terra Foundation for the Arts et du Detroit Institute of Arts. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2003. Text p. 15; ill. p. 14 (color).

Tinterow, Gary and Geneviéve Lacambre. Manet/Velázquez: The French Taste for Spanish Painting. (exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art). New Haven, Connecticut and London, England: Yale University Press, 2003. Text p. 293; fig. 10.38, p. 293 (color).

Kennedy, Elizabeth and Sophie Lévy. Faces of America: Portraits of the Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, 1770-1940. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2004. Text pp. 14, 31 (checklist); ill. p. 54 (color).

Kennedy, Elizabeth and Sophie Lévy. Visages de l'Amérique: le portrait dans la collection de la Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1770-1940. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2004. Text pp. 14, 31 (checklist); ill. p. 54 (color).

Lévy, Sophie, et al. Twarze Ameryki: Portrety z kolekcji Terra Foundation for American Art, 1770–1940/Faces of America: Portraits from the collection of the Terra Foundation for American Art, 1770–1940. (exh. cat. International Cultural Center). Cracow, Poland: International Cultural Center, 2006. Text p. 76; ill. p. 77 (color).

Smithgall, Elsa, Erica E. Hirshler, Katherine M. Bourguignon, Giovanna Ginex, and John Davis, William Merritt Chase: A Modern Master. (exh. cat., The Phillips Collection, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, and the Terra Foundation for American Art). With a foreword by D. Frederick Baker. Washington, DC: Phillips Collection; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. Text pp. 5, 218 (checklist). Ill. pp. 19, 203 (black & white, appears in installation photographs); p. 116, plate 27 (color).

Green, Dominic. “The Body Eclectic: As artist and teacher, William Merritt Chase showed how American art could take its place within European tradition while breaking new ground for the future.” Art & Antiques 39:7 (Summer 2016): 88-93. Text p. 92, as Ready for a Walk: Beatrice Clough Bachmann.

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