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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

Morning at Breakwater, Shinnecock
c. 1897

Oil on canvas
Image: 40 x 50 in. (101.6 x 127.0 cm)
Frame: 48 1/16 x 58 1/16 in. (122.1 x 147.5 cm)
Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.30
Signed: Lower right: Wm. M. Chase
Artist Name: []

Interpretation

William Merritt Chase’s Morning at Breakwater shows the sandy shore and the stone breakwater and canal on Great Peconic Bay near the artist’s summer home at Shinnecock Hills, near the eastern end of New York State’s Long Island. Topped by a boardwalk, the breakwater leads the eye in a steep diagonal from the lower left corner of the composition to its intersection with a stone jetty that runs offshore into the cool waters of the calm, sail-dotted bay. Echoed in the left distance by green-clad dunes, the angled forms of these man-made deterrents to storm damage suggest the protected nature of the beach, on which women and children, perhaps members of Chase’s family, play with unselfconscious ease, their bright costumes relieving the expanse of pale sand. Fair-weather clouds soften the span of blue sky and impart the suggestion of breezes enlivening a sunny summer day at the beach.

Morning at Breakwater, Shinnecock is one of numerous images of the beach, dunes, and fields of Shinnecock that Chase painted during the summers he spent there with his growing family between 1891 and 1902. Long a popular teacher, Chase was the principal instructor at the newly founded Shinnecock Hills Summer School of Art, then America’s largest and most famous seasonal art school. Chase encouraged students to paint outdoors, applying oil paint rapidly and directly on the canvas without preliminary drawing. This practice of plein-air, or outdoor, painting, along with the use of bright color, loose brushwork, and contemporary, local subject matter, indicates Chase’s adherence to the artistic movement known as impressionism, of which he was an enthusiastic promoter in the United States. While impressionism’s French practitioners used these techniques to record purely optical experience, however, Chase clung to traditional notions of carefully orchestrated composition and was not averse to heightening the effects of color and light—all for emotive effect. Beginning in the mid-1890s, his work reflected stronger interest in compositional structure. In Morning at Breakwater, Shinnecock, the deeply receding breakwater both leads the eye into the scene and suggests the sunny beach as a cultivated haven for the brightly clad women and children whose activities enliven its surface.

By the early 1890s, Shinnecock had been “discovered” as a seasonal playground for New York City’s well-to-do. Chase’s paintings of the region, often showing women and children, dressed in summer white, scattered across the landscape, both reflected and promoted eastern Long Island as a summertime resort. Local development encouraged construction of a permanent channel, completed in 1892, connecting landlocked Shinnecock Bay to the Atlantic Ocean through Great Peconic Bay. Chase’s image of the beach, a locus of informal summertime leisure, is dominated by the rigid canal and breakwater, suggesting the triumph of ordered human control and domestic values over harsh natural forces.

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Provenance

The artist, until 1910
National Arts Club, New York, New York
Davis Galleries, New York, New York
Private collection
Davis & Long Company, New York, New York
Daniel J. Terra Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1980
Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1999

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Exhibition History

Chase Exhibition, The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, November 23––December 26, 1897, no. 8.

Exhibition, National Academy of Design, New York, New York, 1898, no. 291 (as Morning at the Breakwater, Shinnecock).

Third Annual Exhibition, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, November 3, 1898–January 1, 1899, no. 171. [exh. cat.]

70th Annual Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, January 14–February 23, 1901, no. 79 (as Morning at the Breakwater).

[possibly exhibited] South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition, Charleston, South Carolina, December 1, 1901–May 1902 (perhaps as no. 86, Early Morning at the Breakwater). [may have won gold medal for this painting]

Chase Exhibition, National Arts Club, New York, New York, 1910, no. 78 (as Morning at the Breakwater, Shinnecock).

American Painting, Davis & Long Company, New York, New York (organizer). Venue: Davis & Long Company, New York, New York, October 15–November 2, 1974. [exh. cat.]

Loan Exhibition, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California, April 30–September 3, 1975.

The Ten, Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, Texas, November 11–December 31, 1977.

American Paintings from the Collection of Daniel J. Terra, Museum of Art, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania (organizer). Venue: Museum of Art, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, June 5–July 17, 1977. [exh. cat.]

Life in 19th Century America, Terra Museum of American Art, Evanston, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Evanston, Illinois, September 11–November 15, 1981. [exh. cat.]

The American Landscape Tradition, 1740–1965, Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Cedar Rapids, Iowa (organizer). Venue: Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, November 9, 1982-January 9, 1983. [exh. cat.]

Selections from the Permanent Collection, Terra Museum of American Art, Evanston, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Evanston, Illinois, July 19–September 14, 1985.

A Proud Heritage: Two Centuries of American Art, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, April 21–June 21, 1987. [exh. cat.]

William Merritt Chase: Summers at Shinnecock, 1891–1902, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. and Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizers). Venues: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., September 6–November 29, 1987; Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, December 13, 1987–February 28, 1988. [exh. cat.]

An American Revelation: The Daniel J. Terra Collection, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, February 28–October 1, 1988.

At the Water's Edge: 19th and 20th Century American Beach Scenes, Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa, Florida (organizer). Venue: Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa, Florida, December 9, 1989–March 18, 1990. [exh. cat.]

Collection Cameo, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, March 1993.

Domestic Bliss: Family Life in American Art, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, April 12–June 22, 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.

Rivières et rivages: les artistes américains, 1850–1900 (Waves and Waterways: American Perspectives, 1850–1900), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–October 31, 2000. [exh. cat.]

William Merritt Chase: Modern American Landscapes, 1886–1890, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, New York (organizer). Venue: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, December 13, 2000–March 11, 2001.

Artistic Independence in 1898: The Ten American Painters, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, May 4–July 21, 2002.

A Place on the Avenue: Terra Museum of American Art Celebrates 15 Years in Chicago, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, November 16, 2002–February 16, 2003 (on exhibit extended run: November 2, 2002–March 2, 2003).

American Classics from the Collection, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, May 14–June 15, 2003.

Copley to Cassatt: Masterworks from the Terra Collection, New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, Connecticut, and Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, Connecticut, September 5–December 7, 2003.

A Narrative of American Art, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, February 13–October 31, 2004.

La Scène américaine, 1860–1930 (Americans at Home, 1860–1930), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, Giverny, France (organizer). Venues: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, Giverny, France, July 10–October 30, 2005.

La Scène américaine, 1860–1930 (Americans at Home, 1860–1930), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, Giverny, France (organizer). Venues: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, Giverny, France, April 1–October 29, 2006.

Le Temps des loisirs : peintures américaines (At Leisure: American Paintings), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, July 15–October 31, 2007.

Le Temps des loisirs : peintures américaines (At Leisure: American Paintings), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–October 31, 2008.

Expanding Horizons: American and Canadian Painting and Photography, 1860-1918, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, Canada (organizer), Venues: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, Canada, June 18–September 27, 2009; Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada, October 17, 2009–January 17, 2010. [exh. cat.]

Americans in Florence: Sargent and the American Impressionists, Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi (organizer). Venue: Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, Italy, March 2–July 15, 2012. [exh. cat].

American Impressionism: a New Vision, 1880–1900 (L'Impressionnisme et les Américains/ Impresionismo Americano (French & Spanish titles), Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny, Giverny, France and the Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago, Illinois in collaboration with the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, United Kingdom and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain (organizers). Venues: Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny, Giverny, France, March 28–June 29, 2014; Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, United Kingdom, July 19–October 19, 2014; Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain, November 4, 2014–February 1, 2015. [exh. cat.]

William Merritt Chase , The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, Massachusetts, Terra Foundation for American Art (organizers). Venues:The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, June 4–September 11, 2016; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, Massachusetts, October 9, 2016–January 16, 2017; Ca’ Pesaro (Fondazione Musei Civici Venezia), Venice, Italy, February 11– May 28, 2017 [exh. cat.]

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Published References

Catalogue of Paintings by William M. Chase. (exh. cat., Art Institute of Chicago). Chicago, Illinois: Art Institute of Chicago, 1897. Text, cat. no. 8.

Third Annual Exhibition. (exh. cat., Carnegie Institute). Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Carnegie Art Galleries, 1898. Ill. no. 3 (as Morning at the Breakwater).

International Studio (supplement) 4–5 (1898): xiii. Text p. xiii (as Morning at the Breakwater Shinnecock).

Dougherty, Jeanette M. “Art Notes.” Zion’s Herald (March 2, 1898). Text p. 270.

“The Week in the Art World.” The New York Times (March 26, 1898). Text (as Morning at the Breakwater- Shinnecock).

Exhibition of Fine Arts. (exh. cat., South Carolina Inter-State and West Indian Exposition). Charleston, South Carolina: Lucas-Richardson Co., 1901-02. Text p. 9, cat. no. 86 (checklist, as Early Morning at the Break-water).

Chase Centennial Exhibition. (exh. cat., John Herron Art Museum). Indianapolis, Indiana: John Herron Art Museum, 1949 (included in Wilbur Peat's Checklist of Known Work by William Merritt Chase).

American Painting. (exh. cat., Davis & Long Company). New York: Davis & Long Company, 1974. Text no. 6; ill. no. 6 (as Morning at the Breakwater).

The Ten. (exh. cat., Art Museum of South Texas). Corpus Christi, Texas: Art Museum of South Texas, 1977. Ill. p. 24 (black & white).

Driscoll, John Paul. American Paintings from the Collection of Daniel J. Terra. (exh. cat., Museum of Art, The Pennsylvania State University). University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University, 1977. Ill. (black & white).

Sokol, David M. Life in 19th Century America: An Exhibition of American Genre Painting. (exh. cat., Terra Museum of American Art). Evanston, Illinois: Terra Museum of American Art, 1981. Text p. 39; fig. 71, p. 37 (color).

Southgate, M. Therese. "The Cover." The Journal of the American Medical Association 250, no. 8 (August 26, 1983): 1041. Text p. 1041; ill. cover (color).

The Magazine Antiques 132, no. 2 (August 1987): 234. Ill. p. 234 (color).

Atkinson, D. Scott and Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr. William Merritt Chase: Summers at Shinnecock, 1891–1902. (exh. cat., National Gallery of Art). Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1987. Text pp. 22, 27-28, 32; fig. 2, p. 33 (black & white), pl. 16, p. 84 (color).

Atkinson, D. Scott et al. A Proud Heritage: Two Centuries of American Art. Edited by Terry A. Neff. (exh. cat., Terra Museum of American Art). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1987. Pl. T-71, p. 180 (color).

Lynes, Russell, William H. Gerdts, and Donald B. Kuspit. At the Water's Edge: 19th and 20th century American Beach Scenes. (exh. cat., Tampa Museum of Art). Tampa, Florida: Tampa Museum of Art, 1989. Ill. p. 72 (color).

Gerdts, William H. et al. Lasting Impressions: American Painters in France, 1865-1915. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1992. Text p. 76; fig. 70, p. 76 (black & white).

Gerdts, William H. et al. Impressions de toujours: les peintres américains en France, 1865-1915. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1992. Text p. 76; fig. 70, p. 76 (black & white).

De Vries-Evans, Susanna. The Impressionists Revealed: Masterpieces from Private Collections. Auckland, New Zealand: David Bateman, Ltd., 1992. Ill. p. 142 (color).

Morning at Breakwater, Shinnecock, William Merritt Chase. Collection Cameo sheet, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, March 1993. Ill. (black & white).

Mancoff, Debra. Domestic Bliss: Family Life in America. (exh. cat. Terra Museum of American Art). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1997. Text (checklist).

Cartwright, Derrick R. Waves and Waterways: American Perspectives, 1850-1900. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2000. Text pp. 12, 26 (checklist); ill. p. 47 (color).

Cartwright, Derrick R. Rivières et rivages: les artistes américains, 1850–1900. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art América in Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2000. Text pp. 12, 26 (checklist); ill. p. 47 (color).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. and Elizabeth Kennedy. An American Point of View: The Daniel J. Terra Collection. Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2002. Ill. p. 20 (color).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. and Elizabeth Kennedy. Un regard transatlantique. La collection d'art américain de Daniel J. Terra. Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2002. Ill. p. 20 (color).

Leeds, Valerie Ann. Ray Ellis in Retrospect: A Painter's Journey. (exh. cat., Telfair Museum of Art). New York: Abbeville Press, 2004. Text p. 39; fig. 26, p. 38 (color).

Pisano, Ronald G.; completed by D. Frederick Baker. The Complete Catalogue of Known and Documented Work of William Merritt Chase. Volume 5, William Merritt Chase: Landscapes in Oil. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2006. Text p. 122; p. 122, plate L. 251 (color).

Goldfarb, Hilliard T., ed. Expanding Horizons: Painting and Photography of American and Canadian Landscapes, 1860-1918. (exh. cat., Montreal Museum of Fine Arts). Montreal: The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and SOMOGY Art Publishers, 2009. Text pp. 215, 310 (checklist); Ill. p. 215 (color).

Bardazzi, Francesca and Carlo Sisi, editors. Americans in Florence: Sargent and the American Impressionists. (exh. cat. Fondazione Plazzo Strozzi). Venice, Italy: Marsilio, 2012. Text, cat. no. 98, p. 240, ill. cat. no 98, p. 219 (color).

Kirkwood, Holly. “Exhibition Review: The American Impressionists.” Country Life (August 10, 2014). Accessed February 30, 2017. http://www.countrylife.co.uk/art-and-antiques/exhibition-review-american-impressionists-59947.

Hirshler, Erica E. “Idle Hours: William Merritt Chase and Modern Leisure.” The Magazine Antiques (September–October 2016): 76- 86. Text p. 83; ill. p. 84 (color).

Oakley, Howard. “William Merritt Chase: a life in painting, 1891-1900”. The Eclectic Light Company (October, 17, 2016). Accessed February 16, 2017. https://eclecticlight.co/2016/10/17/william-merritt-chase-a-life-in-painting-3-1891-1900.

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. 11, 220 (checklist). Ill. p. 171, plate 68 (color).

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