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William Merritt Chase papers, circa 1890-1964

More Information

Stephanie L. Ashley
Scope and Contents
The papers of New York painter and art instructor, William Merritt Chase, measure 0.3 linear feet and date from circa 1890 to 1964. Papers include a resolution of the Art Club of Philadelphia on Chase's death, letters, writings by Chase consisting of typescripts of lectures and lecture notes, blank postcards primarily depicting reproductions of artwork, a scrapbook, and photographs of Chase, his family, homes, and studios, and photographs of works of art.
Letters include a photocopy of a 1901 letter signed by 28 students of the Shinnecock Summer School thanking Chase for a painting; a 1903 postcard to Mr. Harold R. Shiffer from his aunt; a 1912 letter to Chase signed by 32 pupils of the Art Students League thanking him for his efforts on their behalf and acknowledging his "qualities of sympathy, interest, and an understanding of our individual needs;" a 1915 note from an unidentified writer; a 1920 letter to Chase's wife Alice, from Gertrude Abbey, wife of Edwin Austin Abbey, referencing a tile possibly created by Edwin Abbey that Mrs. Chase owns; a 1935 postcard to Chase's daughter Helen from an unidentified writer; and a 1964 letter to Helen Storm from Ala Story in which Story describes a Chase exhibition that he is organizing and apologizes for having given a sketchbook of drawings owned by Helen to the Morgan Library.
Writings include 4 sets of lecture notes (one labeled as being notes for a lecture at Shinnecock), which are a combination of annotated typescripts and handwritten pages, and a typescript of a 1906 "Talk on the Old Masters by Mr. Chase" for the New York School of Art. Also found is a notebook with handwritten notes on a talk Chase gave to students in Philadelphia, presumably at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
Writings by others consist of a six-page typescript entitled "Reminiscences of a Student," by F. Usher De Voll, describing his experiences of Chase as a teacher.
Postcards (blank) include 3 reproductions of works of art by Chase, 8 reproductions of works of art by other artists, and 2 scenic views.
A Chase family scrapbook consists of mounted prints, primarily cyanotypes, that document Chase's travels to Rome, Milan, Gibraltar and the Loire Valley, and visits to major monuments, and also includes images of Chase and his family at leisure during their travels, as well as five family portraits.
Photographs of the Chase family include one of Chase with his son, Dana, and one of Chase with his wife, Alice, both undated. Other family members and friends are generally unidentified but do include Virginia Gerson and possibly Alice Gerson. Also found are four portraits of Chase, four photographs of Chase in his studio, a copy print of students at the Shinnecock Art School in circa 1895, and a copy print of an 1880 Tile Club trip up the Hudson River. In addition to circa 1960 copy prints, photographs include a variety of vintage prints such as albumen cabinet cards, silver gelatin prints, and a tintype.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The papers were received in a series of accessions between 1969 and 2010. A portion was loaned for microfilming by Robert S. Chase and Chapellier Galleries in 1969. Roger Storm, the widower of Chase's daughter Helen, donated lectures and speeches, a 1912 letter, and photocopies of a dinner menu and photos of artwork in 1969. Art collector Fred D. Bentley gave photographic copy prints of Chase's summer home, studio and art school. D. Frederick Baker, the author of the Chase catalogue raisonné, gave two letters, two postcards, the Chase family scrapbook, vintage photographs, and blank postcards in 2010. Baker received the material from Chase's estate via Chase's grandson, Jackson Case Storm.
Separated Materials
The Archives of American Art also holds microfilm of material lent for microfilming. Reel N69-115 includes an additional family scrapbook, undated, containing photographs of Chase, his wife and children, a notice of sale of the Chase house in Shinnecock Hills, N.Y. designed by Stanford White, and photographs of the house. Found on reel N69-119 are circa two hundred photographs of Chase at work, his wife, his studios in Philadelphia and on 5th Avenue and 10th Street New York City, and numerous snapshots of characters in a tableau vivant that include his family, friends, Mary S. Moore Cross, and others. Reel N69-137 contains letters from Chase to his wife during his travels abroad, one note from John Singer Sargent requesting the use of Chase's studio for the famous party Sargent gave for Isabella Stewart Gardner in 1890, and a six-page typescript, "Reminiscences of a Student," by F. Usher De Voll, and photographs of Chase's studio. Loaned materials were returned to the lenders and are not described in the collection container inventory.
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art
Processing Information
The William Merritt Chase papers were donated in a series of accessions between 1969 and 2010, and some of the material was microfilmed at some point after receipt . All previously filmed and unfilmed accessions were merged, fully processed, arranged and described by Stephanie L. Ashley in 2014, and the collection was digitized in 2014, with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.