PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF GILBERT A. AND ANNE B. HARRISON
A staunch believer that the purpose of art was to reveal the "truth" in nature, William Merritt Chase rejected the sentimental, moralizing narratives that marked much of late nineteenth century Victorian painting. He once boldly declared: "We hear too much of subject, subject, subject ... People talk about poetical subjects in art ... there are no such things. The only poetry in art is the way the artist applies his pigments to the canvas" (A Leading Spirit in American Art, 1983, p. 89). I Think I am Ready Now demonstrates Chase's belief that the true artist was a prism, and through him everyday sights could be converted into images of beauty. Chase had a penchant for rendering his subjects in intimate, fleeting moments. In I Think I am Ready Now he captures a pretty young woman casually adjusting her hair while gazing into a mirror. Chase denies the viewer a glimpse of the girl's face by veiling its reflection in shadow; thereby shifting the focus from the identity of the model to his vibrant treatment of the lush folds of fabric in her pink dress and it's long, flowing train. I Think I am Ready Now is not a portrait of a specific woman, but rather a celebration of technique and the tonal possibilities of a single color.
Around the time Chase painted I Think I am Ready Now, he had begun to study fabrics for their chromatic qualities and had become a frequent visitor to a textile firm owned by the family of one of his students, Dora Wheeler. In her autobiography, Candace Wheeler wrote that "Chase had a passion for the beauty of textiles, and when 'The Associated Artists' came to their days of experiments in color he often dropped in to see what had been done that was new to him; and he was never tired of watching the variations of color in some specimen of shadow-silks when every change of position brought out the design of the textile in a new aspect" (Yesterdays in a Busy Life, New York, 1918, p. 246). Chase's style in I Think I am Ready Now is ambitious, as he highlights the varied but subtle tonal gradations in the fabrics. His vigorous application of the delicate colors imbues the fabric with a sense of fluidity and volume. Ever a symbol of female delicacy, pink was popular with Chase, who painted several women wearing the color. The soft, natural shade was also markedly different from the brash, synthetic colors being introduced into American fashions. While the girl in I Think I am Ready Now is unidentified, it is possible that she is the artist's wife Alice or her sister Virginia, both of whom modeled for Chase wearing gowns that they designed as well as costumes that he provided.
Chase developed a reputation as a uniquely American artist during his lifetime, though he was proud of his ability to integrate other artistic influences into his work. After returning from a six year stay in Europe, in the late 1870s Chase began to take an interest in the work of James Abbott McNeill Whistler. The relatively limited palette in I Think I am Ready Now has much in common with Whistler's own abstract approach to color. Like Whistler, Chase took an interest in Japanese prints, and his daughter Cosy recalled that the artist owned "piles of Japanese books." This painting, and works like Making Her Toilet and Dorothy re-interpret Japanese scenes of intimate interiors where women bathe and dress while gazing into mirrors.
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