One of William Merritt Chase’s finest interiors, Hall at Shinnecock (1892) is a glowing testament to the artist’s virtuosity as a pastel painter. In this resplendent scene of domestic leisure, Chase captures his wife and two of their children in the great hall of their Shinnecock home during the second season Chase taught at the Shinnecock Summer School of Art. During his visit there the next year, writer John Gilmer Speed was struck by how “the hall makes a picturesque entrance to the house and studio. It rises through both stories to the roof . . . Pictures and tapestries hang on the walls . . . As the front door opens to a visitor, an Aeolian harp tinkles a welcome till the door is shut again. Then the visitor sees that he is not in the conventional house, but in one designed for picturesque effects in furnishings.”
Hall at Shinnecock is also a brilliant homage to one of Chase’s favorite old masters, 17th-century Spanish painter Diego Velázquez. Borrowing a pictorial device from Velázquez’s famous Las Meninas, Chase paints his own reflection in the mirrored doors of the black antique Dutch armoire at the far end of the room. Like the central Infanta Margaret Theresa, the turned head and intent gaze of Chase’s older daughter acknowledges the protagonist who lingers outside the physical space of the painting.
Elsa Smithgall, Exhibition Curator