Lot 49
  • 49

WILLIAM MERRITT CHASE | Near the Sea (Shinnecock)

200,000 - 300,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • William Merritt Chase
  • Near the Sea (Shinnecock)
  • signed Wm. M. Chase. (lower left)
  • pastel on canvas
  • 16 by 24 inches
  • (40.6 by 61 cm)
  • Executed circa 1895.


The artist
(probably) Estate of the above (sold: American Art Galleries, New York, The Completed Pictures, Studies and Sketches Left by the Late William Merritt Chase, N.A., May 14-17, 1917, lot 184)
Scott & Fowles, New York (acquired at the above sale)
Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence A. Fleischman, New York
Kennedy Galleries, New York
Kathleen and Charles Harper, by 1993
Godel & Co. Fine Art, New York
Charles Harper, Chicago, Illinois
[With]Owen Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1999


New York, Spanierman Gallery, William Merritt Chase: Master of American Impressionism, November 1994-January 1995, n.p. (as The Shinnecock Hills)
New York, Owen Gallery, American Impressionism, April-June 1999, n.p., illustrated (as The Shinnecock Hills)
New York, Owen Gallery, American Impressionism, October-December 1999, n.p., illustrated (as The Shinnecock Hills)


Ronald G. Pisano, Summer Afternoons: Landscape Paintings of William Merritt Chase, Boston, Massachusetts, 1993, illustrated p. 111 (as The Shinnecock Hills)
Ronald G. Pisano, William Merritt Chase: The Paintings in Pastel, Monotypes, Painted Tiles and Ceramic Plates, Watercolors and Prints; The Complete Catalogue of Known and Documented Work by William Merritt Chase, vol. I, New Haven, Connecticut, 2006, no. P.92, p. 40, illustrated p. 41


The canvas is unlined and there is frame abrasion along the extreme edges. There is a small circular stain in the upper left corner and a small spot on the reverse that likely corresponds to a small repair in the grass at lower left. The pastel appears fixed.
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

Executed circa 1895, Near the Sea (Shinnecock) is one of a series of pastels that William Merritt Chase produced in the 1890s during his summers spent at Shinnecock Hills on eastern Long Island. In the present work, Chase employs a strictly horizontal format composed of two nearly equal registers of sky and sand dunes bisected by a hazy central horizon line. The striking diagonal of the road at the lower left extends into the rolling dunes at center, creating a compositional tension that disrupts the linear design while simultaneously inviting the viewer to enter the picture plane. Chase was particularly captivated by Shinnecock's transitory, cloud-filled sky, rendered here with variegated shades of white, grey, pink and blue that deftly records the ephemeral light of this specific afternoon climate.  His commitment to documenting the environment exactly as he experienced it was perhaps best summarized by his student at Shinnecock, Rockwell Kent, who observed: “[Chase] went to nature, stood before nature and painted it as his eyes beheld it” (It's Me O Lord, New York, 1955, p. 76). 

Following the completion of the Long Island Railroad at Southampton in the early 1870s, New Yorkers began to seek refuge from the brutal summer heat on Long Island’s south fork. An early resident, Mrs. William Hoyt, set upon establishing a summer art school at Shinnecock and asked Chase to direct the venture. Among the leading painters of his generation, Chase accepted and began to conduct classes during the summer of 1891. Nestled amongst nearly 4,000 acres of brush and sand dunes dotted by the occasional diminutive tree, the school was immediately well-attended by students, among them the artists Joseph Stella, Charles Hawthorne, and Rockwell Kent. Teaching classes on Monday and Tuesday, Chase had the remaining days free for his own painting, which he predominantly executed en plein air: “I carry a comfortable stool that can be closed up in a small space, and I never use an umbrella,” he remarked. “I want all the light I can get. When I have found the spot I like, I set up my easel, and paint the picture on the spot. I think that is the only way rightly to interpret nature” (as quoted in D. Scott Atkinson and Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., William Merritt Chase: Summers at Shinnecock 1891-1902, Washington, D.C., 1987, p. 18).

In Near the Sea (Shinnecock), and other Shinnecock subjects from the mid-1890s, Chase's palette is acutely responsive to nature’s cooler and subtler moods. Sparked by a drastic re-examination of his life as artist and teacher during 1895, this body of work contains an impressive depth of feeling and emotion unseen in his earlier Shinnecock scenes. Explaining the impetus for this change, the scholar Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr. writes, “[Chase] gave up the Tenth Street Studio, auctioned its contents, and announced his intention to give up teaching and devote himself more wholly to his art...[the change] transformed his landscape style from what had been largely an instrument of seeing into one that was at least as much an instrument of feeling, from one devoted largely to optical description into a vehicle of compelling expressive address” (Ibid., pp. 35-36).