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Recent Acquisitions: William Merritt Chase, Olive Trees, Florence, about 1911

Hood Quarterly, spring 2008

One of the most talented and influential American painters and teachers active at the turn of the twentieth century, William Merritt Chase (1849–1916) excelled at portraits, still lifes, and landscapes. This work, a gift of Hood board member Jack Tamagni, Class of 1956, is characteristic of Chase’s fluid, sketchlike response to the sun-dappled landscape near his villa in Fiesole, outside Florence, Italy, where he spent part of each summer from 1907 until at least 1911.

In contrast to the artist’s taut earlier landscapes, such as his 1890s view of New York’s Shinnecock canal in the Hood’s collections, this Italian subject conveys the sense of a much more intimate, spontaneous response to his environs and was almost surely painted outdoors. In this and other paintings from late in his career, Chase applied paint in an all-over, agitated manner that reveals his debt to French impressionism and accentuates Tuscany’s brilliant, fleeting effects of sunlight and shadow.

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