Thursday, September 2, 2010

Summer Afternoons on the East End

Chris Rossi, Associate Curator of Exhibitions

Summer afternoon–summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language. – Henry James

Every year my daughter and I make a pilgrimage back to Long Island to see family and visit some of my favorite childhood haunts. Long Island has changed a bit since I spent my summers at Camp Blue Bay, out on the east end, but the rambling and windswept sandy moors are still there, even if you have to look a little harder to find them.

Peconic Bay

William Merritt Chase spent summers out on the east end as well. From 1891 – 1902 he taught classes at the Shinnecock Hills Summer Art School. Students lived in a small art village near Chase’s home. They went off onto the moors and down by the bays to practice plein air (outdoor) painting, which was a staple of American Impressionists such as Chase. Over 100 students each summer passed through the Shinnecock School, and they indulged in more than painting. Theatricals and tableau vivants (living pictures) were sources of amusement, with students and Chase’s family dressing in costume to recreate well-known paintings. The Parrish Art Museum in Southampton has a wonderful collection of Chase’s work and photographs that document the students, as well as family, at work and play.

Chase with his daughter Helen posed as a Spanish Infanta, ca. 1899
From About the Bayberry Bush, the Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY, 2001

Chase’s work captures my memory of hot sunny afternoons out on the bay or strolling through bayberry-festooned moors. You can feel the heat of the day with the breeze coming off the water and up over the sand with a sky painted “as if we could see through it,” as Chase advised his students. His Shinnecock landscapes are a perfect recollection of summer afternoons gone by.

Idle Hours, 1894
From the collection of the Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

1 comment:

Bart Boehlert said...

Hi Chris,
Chase is one of my favorites! Wonderful style he had. Great to meet you recently, and hope you like the video!
Bart Boehlert

Blog Widget by LinkWithin