American, 1849-1916

"Bobbie: A Portrait Sketch"

oil on canvas
inscribed on the stretcher "Bobbie", with the artist's red wax seal on the stretcher
15 7/8 x 13 1/4 inches

  • Provenance: The artist, ca. 1889; American Art Galleries, "Completed Pictures, Studies, and Sketches by William Merritt Chase, N.A.", New York, New York, May 14, 1917; J.B. Townsend, acquired at the above sale ($35,000); Student of William Merritt Chase; Private Collection, ca. 1920; Sotheby's, New York, New York, March 17, 1994, lot 106; Private Collection, New Jersey
  • Literature: Roland G. Pisano, "William Merritt Chase: Portraits in Oil", (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2006), p. 147, catalog number OP.273 (illustrated).

    Framed dimensions: 25 x 22 x 3 inches

    "The most prominent characteristic of his style in portraiture is force. Vividness of conception, strength and rapidity of hand—these are its most striking qualities."1

    William Merritt Chase is one of the most celebrated American Impressionists. He was an influential teacher of plein-air painting and a tremendously successful artist working in a progressive style that included elements of Tonalism, Impressionism and Realism. Chase was born in Franklin, Indiana where he began his artistic training under Benjamin Hayes. He spent a brief period in St. Louis, Missouri studying under Munich-trained artist John Mulvaney.

    His talent was apparent early on and patrons from St. Louis sponsored a trip for Chase to go to Munich and study bravura painting at the Royal Academy. (Bravura is a type of brushstroke used by John Singer Sargent, Anders Zorn, Velazquez and others. To accomplish this style, painters used what appears to be a quick brushstroke but is actually a deliberate, purposeful paint application.) From 1872-1878 Chase studied in Munich with friends J. Frank Currier, Frank Duveneck, and John Twachtman.

    In 1878, Chase returned to New York where he became a teacher at the Art Students League and rented a studio in Greenwich Village. Chase quickly outgrew his original space and took over the large gallery originally intended for all of the Tenth Street Studio Building tenants to exhibit their work. He made several trips to Europe absorbing the styles of the Old Masters but also increasingly of contemporary European artists like Edouard Manet and Giuseppe de Nittis.

    Early in his career, Chase concluded that painting portraits would help him achieve success both artistically and financially. In the first exhibition of the Society of American Arts held in 1878, Chase exhibited four portraits, including Apprentice, a painting of a young man he completed in Munich during his time there from 1872-1877.

    His skills as a portraitist attracted high profile sitters – presidents, businessmen, actresses and celebrities– sat for their portraits at Chase's Tenth Street Studio. He painted his friends, relatives and fellow artists. In London, he met J.A.M. Whistler and the artists painted one another.

    In the present lot, Chase painted his son Bobbie holding a red ball. In the catalog raisonne author Ronald Pisano notes, "This work was said to have been purchased at the Chase estate auction by a Chase student. The portrait is of Chase's son Robert Stewart Chase, born December 19, 1898 (died December 5, 1987). A similar portrait of Chase's son Roland Dana Chase (1901-1980) holding a red ball is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York."

    1"William Merritt Chase," American Art Review, 2 (January, 1881): 97.

    Tags: oil painting, listed artist, American Impressionism, 19th century, baby
  • Condition: in excellent overall condition; unlined canvas; no restoration apparent under UV; varnish inconsistencies apparent under UV

    We are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Shannon’s is merely a subjective qualified opinion. Frames on all paintings are sold "As Is". Frames may need some conservation. 

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