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Chase, William Merritt Rest by the Wayside, 1898


William Merritt Chase is one of the most renowned Indiana artists outside the state and considered to be the foremost still-life painter of his time in the United States. He began a business career at age 16 when he and his father opened the largest shoe store in Indianapolis, one section of which was the first women’s shoe store in the West. However, Chase was more interested in drawing than in selling shoes, and so his father allowed him to study art. After a year of tutelage from Barton S. Hays, Chase went to New York City to study at the National Academy of Design. He moved to St. Louis, where he painted still lifes and portraits, and in 1872 entered the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Munich. He struggled there because he wanted to compose his own pictures instead of using conventional ideas. He was not only criticized by his teachers but also ran out of money. His luck changed when Karl von Piloty, one of his teachers, was impressed with a painting he had done, and asked him to paint his children. After that Chase received many commissions and prizes. In 1878, he returned to New York City to teach at the Art Students League. He was a leader there in art circles and a genuine teacher. He encouraged his pupils to use paint with freedom, instead of just drawing. He had a wide range of subjects: portraits, still lifes, landscapes, and genre. Chase also used a variety of media for artistic expression: oil, watercolor, pastel, and engraving.

  • Rest by the Wayside, ca.1898
  • 25 1/2″ x 20 1/4″
  • David Owsley Museum of Art, Ball State University
  • Keywords: paintings, natural landscapes, oil on wood panel
  • Subjects: outdoors, trees, men, hats

This painting focuses on an expanse of landscape, with suggestions of terrain that has shaped the culture and character of America. Note the well-defined horizon line that helps to create a sense of great distance. Note also the rich texture and the use of analogous colors—those next to each other on a color wheel.


Some Points To Consider

  • Ask students what objects in the picture help to create perspective. What about the trees? What else creates the sense of great distance? (Art 4.3.1, 4.7.2)
  • Help students trace the stages of Chase’s artistic growth from the time he was taught by Indiana artist Barton S. Hays to becoming famous and a teacher himself. Chase changed styles many times as he developed his artistic skill. Ask students to describe the Impressionist features of this painting. (Art 4.1.1, 4.3.1)