During the 1880s, William Merritt Chase became active in New York’s artistic avant-garde through his affiliation with two progressive arts organizations: Society of American Artists (president 1880–81; 1885–1895) and the Society of American Painters in Pastel (co-founder, 1883). A natural-born orator and marketer, Chase led the charge of a younger generation of American artists determined to transform their country’s provincial cultural landscape by introducing a new modern spirit in American art.
In 1885, William Merritt Chase stopped in London on his way to Madrid to pay a visit to James Abbott McNeill Whistler, the artist whom he had revered since the late 1870s, sharing with him a passion for the ideals of beauty and harmony in art. Upon Whistler’s urging, Chase stayed the summer so that they could sit for each other’s portraits.
In the early 20th century, William Merritt Chase returned with renewed vigor to still life painting, a genre he had pursued since the beginning of his career. Most but not all of these works were given over to fish, due at once to their popularity with collectors and museums and Chase’s great pleasure in their making.