Work on Monday: “Alice in the Shinnecock Studio” by W.M. Chase

Today’s Work on Monday examines the work of Shinnecock Hills painter William Merritt Chase, who is widely considered one of the greatest masters ever to work on the East End of Long Island—and that’s saying a lot, considering the region’s artistic legacy. His painting, “Alice in the Shinnecock Studio” is part of the Parrish Art Museum’s permanent collection, currently on display at the new museum in Water Mill.

Work on Monday is a weekly look at one piece of art related to the East End, usually by a Hamptons or North Fork artist, living or dead, created in any kind of media. Join the conversation by posting your thoughts in the comments below and email suggestions for a future Work on Monday here.

Alice in the Shinnecock Studio
William Merritt Chase (American, 1849-1916)
Oil on canvas
38 1/8 x 42 3/4 inches, c. 1900

This oil depicts Chase’s daughter Alice seated before a painting in his Shinnecock studio. As the Parrish points out in its materials about the work, the piece may be a picture of Alice, but the studio and the paintings within it—as well as the art of painting itself—are as much, if not more, the subject. It is a rare treat to see the inside of an artist’s studio during the era before photography was widely used and cameras took aim at less traditional subject matter.

To this end, “Alice in the Shinnecock Studio” is a small and brief glimpse at Chase’s sanctum sanctorum, the place where his hard work and brilliance poured out. We see little details that bring the artist that much more to life—his various objects, his vessels filled with brushes and perhaps paint, thinner, tea or water, his small statue, the easels, plates and even his Velásquez study bathed in stunning Shinnecock sunlight filtered through his windowpane.

While some argue Alice is a surrogate for the viewer in this painting, that opinion seems opposed to her importance in the piece. Here, the viewer and Chase become one, looking in on perhaps his most beloved creations—both art and child—in his most personal of spaces.

To see this painting and other masterpieces by William Merritt Chase, visit the new Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill. For details, check out parrishart.org.

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