Portrait of Mrs. C. (Lady with a White Shawl) (1893). William Merritt Chase (American, 1849-1916). Oil on canvas. PAFA.

Chase described the subject as “the perfect type of American womanhood.” It has been suggested that she was Chase’s wife or perhaps Emily Jewell Clark, a wealthy art collector. One of the artist’s favorite models during the early 1890s was Minnie Clark. Chase’s use of only the subject’s initial and a generic title suggests a tendency to conceive of his portrait as an ideal type.

Studio Interior (c.1882). William Merritt Chase (American, 1849-1916). Oil on canvas. Brooklyn Museum.

Chase’s paintings of the studio suggest his belief in a complete and passionate engagement with art. Characterized by rich colors and lively brushwork, the paintings appealed to an American audience increasingly under the sway of the British Aesthetic Movement, which above all championed the artistic appointment of interiors with a rich ensemble of decorated surfaces.