American, 1849-1916

"Man Holding a Cigar"

oil on canvas
signed lower right "W.M. Chase"
30 1/4 x 20 inches

  • Provenance: Private Collection, Texas; Shannon's, Milford, Connecticut, April 29, 2010, lot 57; Private Collection, New York.
  • Literature: Ronald G. Pisano, "William Merritt Chase - Portraits in Oil", (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2006), p. 93 (illustrated), cat. no. OP.179.
  • Notes: A copy of "William Merritt Chase - Portraits in Oil" by Ronald G. Pisano accompanies the lot.

    Framed dimensions: 39 1/4 x 29 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's mastery of European painting techniques is evident. The rich brushstrokes provide texture and depth to the clothing. The sitter's calm expression, directly at the viewer, is inviting. Although the subject is not identified, he was likely a friend of the artist's or a New York socialite.

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

    tags: oil painting, figure, portrait, man, cigar, 19th century, American Impressionist, American Impressionism
  • Condition: overall very good condition; inpaint to the right edge; lined

    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. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD “AS IS” IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE. 

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