Lot 62
  • 62

William Merritt Chase 1849 - 1916

400,000 - 600,000 USD
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  • William Merritt Chase
  • The Old Road, Flatbush
  • signed Wm. M. Chase (lower right); also inscribed indistinctly 2327/The Old Road Flatbush/by William M. Chase/Long Island/2392
  • oil on panel
  • 10 1/4 by 15 7/8 inches
  • (26 by 40.3 cm)
  • Painted in 1887.


Charles Lang Freer, Detroit, Michigan, 1888 (acquired from the artist)
Edward A. Hauss, Century, Florida, 1911 (gift from the above)
By descent in the family
Acquired by the present owner, 2002


New York, American Art Galleries, Fall Exhibition–American Paintings, 1887, no. 63
(possibly) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Art Club, Annual Exhibition, 1887, no. 114 (as A Bit of Flatbush)
(possibly) Detroit, Michigan, Detroit Museum of Art, 2nd Exhibition, 1889, no. 15 (as The Old Road)
(probably) New York, Society of American Artists, Twelfth Annual, April-May 1890, no. 40 (as Long Island Landscape)
(possibly) Chicago, Illinois, Art Institute of Chicago, June-July 1890, no. 34 (as Long Island Landscape)  


Letter from William Merritt Chase to Charles Lang Freer, March 15, 1890, The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, Washington, D.C.
Ronald G. Pisano, William Merritt Chase: Landscapes in Oil, The Complete Catalogue of Known and Documented Work by William Merritt Chase (1849-1916), New Haven, Connecticut, 2009, vol. III, no. L.94, p. 47, illustrated 


This work is in very good condition. There is frame abrasion at the lower and left edges. Under UV: there are minor touchups to frame abrasion at the edges.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

William Merritt Chase painted The Old Road, Flatbush in 1887, the same year he and his new wife, Alice, moved to Brooklyn, New York. The artist’s move from his Tenth Street Studio in New York City to this more remote area coincided with a significant evolution in his aesthetic. Trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich from 1872 to 1878, Chase spent several summers abroad in the late 1870s and early 1880s. While traveling throughout England, France, The Netherlands and Spain, he grew well acquainted with the ideals and techniques of the most important European painters of the day, particularly the French Impressionists. Predominantly painting en plein air, he closely observed how the mercurial effects of light and atmosphere enlivened the countryside. When he returned to the United States in 1885, Chase transitioned his style to incorporate the lessons he learned abroad, and executed an important group of plein air paintings that took the everyday sights of Brooklyn as their subject, as is demonstrated in the present work.

In The Old Road, Flatbush, Chase captures a rural neighborhood in Brooklyn. Characterized by a lightened palette and a painterly manner of execution, it is fully evocative of the new direction Chase’s style took in this period. In The Old Road, Flatbush, Chase employs gestural brushstrokes with brilliant highlights to animate the surface of the panel and suggest the effects of sun-dappled light, emphasizing the sense that he rendered the scene from direct observation. Yet the apparent veracity with which Chase portrays his subject belies the careful planning of his compositional design. Indeed, the artist boldly experiments with pictorial space in the present work, sharply cropping the composition and including the diagonal path that contrasts dynamically with the horizontality of the picture plane.

Charles Lang Freer, an important early collector of American art and founder of what is now the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., was the first owner of The Old Road, Flatbush, which he purchased directly from Chase in 1888. It was the first work of American art that Freer purchased for himself. Chase received great acclaim for works such as The Old Road, Flatbush, which were viewed by contemporary critics as bold, original and “uniquely American.” Today, these paintings are considered important precursors to the light-filled landscapes and intimate domestic scenes for which the artist is now best known.