Still Life, Fish
William Merritt Chase
On View: American Identities: A New Look, Everyday Life/A Nation Divided, 5th Floor
Late in his career, William Merritt Chase took to painting dramatic still lifes of fish, often staging the process as a demonstration or performance for students—in this case for his American students while in Bruges, Belgium, and for the Brooklyn Museum’s then-director William H. Fox, who recorded the artist’s bravura method for posterity. Drawing on his Munich training (in the 1870s), and its emphasis on the high tonal contrast and vigorous brushwork exemplified by Dutch and Spanish Baroque art, Chase painted quickly, “wet into wet” (brushing wet paint into wet paint), beginning with a base preparation of silvery white and blue tones. Identifying the brightest passage at the outset, Chase then worked up the darks and lights simultaneously. Here that bright area is the upturned belly of the skate, or ray, described with layer after layer of milky, tinted whites punctuated by the exuberant gestures of orange-red that suggest a bloody gash.
Oil on canvas
31 7/8 x 39 7/16 in. (81 x 100.2 cm) (show scale)
Signed lower left: "Wm M. Chase"
John B. Woodward Memorial Fund
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William Merritt Chase (American, 1849-1916). Still Life, Fish, 1912. Oil on canvas, 31 7/8 x 39 7/16 in. (81 x 100.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, John B. Woodward Memorial Fund, 13.54
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