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.