William Merritt Chase, The Turkish Page (Unexpected Intrusion), 1876. Oil on canvas, 41 1/4 x 37 1/8 in. Cincinnati Art Museum, Gift of the John Levy Galleries, 1923
William Merritt Chase completed The Turkish Page during his student years at the Royal Munich Academy. As was common practice with the Academy’s students, he and his classmate Frank Duveneck arranged for a local boy to model for them in Chase’s Munich studio. Bathing the composition in shimmering reflections of artificial light and shadow, Chase captures the boy dressed in exotic Turkish costume feeding a cockatoo from a shiny copper bowl. The artist’s choice of accessories, from the hanging patterned textile, to the plush red velvet blanket and striped leopard rug, reveal his early talent for the illusionistic depiction of shiny surfaces and layered textures, qualities that became the hallmarks of his mature style. Moreover, the painting anticipates Chase’s developing appetite for collecting and adorning his studio with a vast array of objects, as seen in his Tenth Street studio paintings.
William Merritt Chase, The Tenth Street Studio, 1880. Oil on canvas, 36 1/4 x 48 1/4 in. St. Louis Art Museum, Bequest of Albert Blair
Celebrated as “one of the finest studios in the city,” William Merritt Chase’s lavish Tenth Street Studio brimming with a diverse array of objects, paintings, textiles, and bric-a-brac is brilliantly captured in this painting. Chase arranged the space of his studio with the same artistic eye for color, rhythm, and harmony that he imparted to his art. As he said, “A wall should be treated as a canvas is. Real objects take the place of colors.” This painting provides an expansive frontal view into the grand interior chamber of Chase’s studio, where we witness an exchange between a young woman and the artist. The white of the woman’s cascading dress on which rests the paw of Chase’s black Russian hound draws the viewer into the scene; off to her right, in the shadow, is her attentive interlocutor Chase with palette in hand to suggest that he is in the process of his craft. Whereas Chase’s presence is only implied in the other studio pictures, here he has inserted himself into the painting, thereby offering a glimpse into the way the studio was at once a place for art-making and a place to receive patrons, students, and friends.