Art work of the Day, Thurs. May 28

Brooklyn Museum: Studio Interior

William Merritt Chase, (American, 1849-1916)
Studio Interior, ca. 1882

New Yorker William Merritt Chase remains one of the most popular of fin-de-siecle American painters. In the late 19th century, American artists were struggling to embrace an identity that balanced old world ideas of the artist as a singular outsider and new American ideas of the masculine capitalist entrepreneur. Chase’s New York studio was well-known for its eclectic opulence. He had amassed a large personal collection of prints, paintings and nick-knacks during his time abroad. This image is a fantastic example of the way many 19th century artists tried to market themselves to consumers — as embodiments of the artist as a bohemian and cultural connoisseur. I am also intrigued by the inclusion of the woman. Is she a potential client? A sitter? Either way, she is as much a part of the setting as the fabric and pictures on the wall — perhaps an allusion to woman’s long history as model and muse for the male artist.


Art Work of the Day, May 27, 2009

woman in riding habit

Edouard Manet
Woman in Riding Habit, Fulllface, c. 1882
Oil on canvas; 73 x 52 cm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

From the Museo Thyseen-Bornemisza catalog: “The Woman in a Riding Habit, Fullface belongs to an unfinished series on the subject of the Four Seasons which Manet painted in the last two years of his life as a commission from his friend Antonin Proust, the Minister of Fine Arts.”

It is most likely that Woman in Riding Habit was intended to represent summer, though the heavy black riding outfit, with its top hat and high buttoned collar hardly seems ideal summer attire. Manet’s most famous models were Berthe Morisot, his sister-in-law and fellow artist, and Victorine Meurent. This is a new sitter, a famous actress in the comedie francaise, but the style is what we would expect from Manet, the father of impressionism. It’s a striking image, one that drips of modernity.

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