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Painting By William Merritt Chase: Dancing Girl At Childs Gallery

William Merritt Chase

American (1849-1916)

Dancing Girl, 1881-1882
Oil on canvas

Signed upper right: “Wm M. Chase”. Verso bears inscription on label “Street Dancer / Italy / by William M. Chase”. Verso also bears label from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston reading “2096.13”. In fine condition.

Exhibition History:  Probably exhibited at the Boston Art Club, “Exhibition of Pictures, Studies and Sketches by Mr. Wm. M. Chase of New York City” November 18-December 4 1886 as #57, Spanish Dancing Girl.

Provenance: In Chase Studio New York, c. 1881; possibly at Boston Art Club, 1886; to Mrs. W.B. Sewall, Boston, 1906; to Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, on loan from Mrs. W.B. Sewall, Nov. 2, 1906 to October 30, 1913; to Rufus L. Sewall, Harold I. Sewall and William G. Sewall; to Museum of Fine Arts, Boston on loan, October 30, 1913 to July 5, 1922; to private collections in Boston and New York; to Childs Gallery, Boston.

Published: Ronald G. Pisano, William Merritt Chase: Portraits in Oil – Volume 2 – The Complete Catalogue of Known and Documented Works by William Merritt Chase (1849 -1916), (New Haven, Yale University Press, 2007), 48-9. Entry OP.99 “Street Dancer, Italy (Study of a Woman; Girl Dancing), ca 1882

In about 1882, William Merritt Chase’s pupil, Henry Grinnell Thompson painted a view of the interior of William Merritt Chase’s Tenth Street Studio, which included as the central prominent painting Dancing Girl. Dancing Girl was painted very quickly with expressive and expressionistic brushwork in the background and extensive use of palette knife in the whites and beiges of the dress.  The painting captures a moment of movement in a figure that would have had much appeal for the New Yorkers of the 1880s who pursued tastes for eclecticism and exoticism in many cultures.

Chase had exhibited Italian Minstrel in 1881 at the Boston Art Club and had been in France and Spain in the summer of that year, and again in Spain in the summer of 1882. This painting is likely Spanish Dancing Girl, which was #57 in Chase’s solo exhibition at the Boston Art Club in 1886. Although the label (not in Chase’s hand) reads “Street Dancer-Italy”, it is more likely from his tour of Spain in the early 1880s. By the 1886 Boston Art Club exhibition Chase was presenting numerous Spanish subjects, but very few Italian. There he showed A bit of old Madrid, Study of a Spanish Girl, In Madrid, A Madrid Study, Sketch of Spanish Girl in White, as well as Spanish Dancing Girl. In addition he showed the watercolors The Tambourine Girl, and Study of a Spanish Girl and “black and whites” Spanish Girl and A Spanish Gypsy. By contrast the only work with an Italian subject exhibited by Chase was Sketch of Boats—Venice. Chase had spent the winter of 1877-78 in Venice with Frank Duveneck and John H. Twachtman. It is possible that this oil was done from sketches made in Italy in the 1870s, but it appears more likely that the subject is Spanish and not Italian and dates from Chase’s Spanish trip of the summer of 1881 or 1882.

In his entry for this picture, Ronald G. Pisano, agrees “Although the title of this work, Street Dancer, Italy, is inscribed on a label on the back of the work the label was probably from an owner after the artist’s death.  In 1882 Chase was traveling in Spain, not Italy, so it might be a Spanish dancer, rather than an Italian one.”  The dress, and shawl are very much like the ones used on A Spanish Girl in White OP.123 (c. 1886).

Signature: Signed upper right: "W.m M. Chase".
In Exhibitions: