The Kindred Spirit: William Merritt Chase and His Southern Students

TJC Gallery, Spartanburg, South Carolina
November 15, 2018 – February 8, 2019

Over one thousand art students passed through the classrooms of William Merritt Chase (1849–1916), during his illustrious teaching career. The artists showcased in this presentation — Josephine Sibley Couper, Elliott Daingerfield, Ella Hergesheimer, Rockwell Kent, Margaret Law, Clara Weaver Parrish, Paul Sawyier, and Will Henry Stevens, among others — studied under Chase at the turn of the twentieth century, adopting his methods to various degrees before ultimately finding their own creative vocabularies.

After completing his education in Europe in 1878, Chase returned to the United States and promptly joined the faculty of the Art Students League in New York. Over the next thirty years, Chase was an instructor and director at several esteemed art academies, and even founded an eponymous school. Teaching became an integral and fulfilling aspect of Chase’s professional life. “Association with my pupils has kept me young in my work,” he claimed, and “criticism of their work has kept my own point of view clear.”

The Kindred Spirit explores how Chase’s influential style and vision were expanded and transformed in the hands of Southern painters. Many implemented techniques similar to Chase’s, recording everyday scenes and landscapes in an Impressionist manner, while others built on that foundation by experimenting with different modes of modernism. Several went on to establish regional art schools, thereby ensuring that Chase’s legacy, as well as their own, would live on in the next generation of Southern artists.

This exhibition is the curatorial capstone for TJC’s 2018 Graduate Fellow, Dr. Kelsey Malone. A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Malone received her PhD from the University of Missouri and is now Assistant Professor of Art History at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.