The Ancient Mariner
Who was Harry Chase?
Born 1853, Woodstock, Vermont
Died 1889, Sewanee, Tennessee
It is an ancient Mariner, And he stoppeth one of three. 'By thy long grey beard and glittering eye, Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?'
-- First stanza, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, 1834. Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Now, wherefore stop I thee to consider Harry Chase? Chiefly, because his splendid work as an artist implores me to do so. His paintings are vibrant, and vividly portray sea, shore, salt, ships and sailors. But, also because his story deserves to be told. While he is virtually unknown today, Harry Chase was a vibrant member of the corps d'elite of American art during the second half of the Nineteenth Century. His importance as an artist during his career cannot be overstated. Nonetheless, Harry Chase no longer holds the same rank of significance that some of his contemporaries such as John Singer Sargent, Childe Hassam, Mary Cassatt, James Abbot McNeill Whistler or William Merritt Chase still do today. However, while he was alive, his name was held in the same high esteem as these recognized luminaries of the American art world. Harry Chase deserves to be more fully known today for his contributions to American art during the Gilded Age.
In his particular genre of marine painting, Harry Chase was perhaps in a class by himself with only a handful of Americans such as Arthur Quartley, Winslow Homer, Mauritz F. H. De Haas or members of the Moran family attaining comparable significance in this field during his career. In the newspapers and journals of the day, Harry was readily acknowledged as one of the outstanding American marine painters, some even said he was the greatest (have a look at the Photo Gallery on this site of some of his works and see if you agree). Yet, very few will have even heard of Harry Chase today.
History has been particularly unkind to Harry and he no longer receives the accolades that were his while he was alive, and of these there were once many as the Awards & Honors page on this website attests. Harry Chase is also missing the standing and recognition due him even now for the important part he played in the coming of age of American Art, a period which pushed later avant-garde American artists into the Twentieth Century. Harry’s life and work rightly justify closer examination.
Born in Woodstock, Vt., in 1853, Harry Chase grew up on a farm in Iowa, landed in St Louis as a teenager, and proceeded to study fine art at august institutions such as the National Academy of Design in New York City (1871) and the Royal Bavarian Academy of Fine Art in Munich (1872–1875). He also studied under Soyer in Paris (1877–1878) and Mesdag in The Hague (1879). Famous for his paintings of marine and coastal settings, Harry Chase was considered one of the finest American artists in this genre, and was especially known for his scenes of the fisher folk of Holland.
Harry was a well-regarded, celebrated artist in his day, but has since fallen into obscurity. I believe he deserves to be better known and I have undertaken the publication of this website to illuminate his life and work. If you have any paintings, photographs, letters, documents, drawings or information regarding Harry Chase and would like to contribute to my effort, please email comments or questions to email@example.com
Harry Chase A.N.A. Diploma Portrait
Benoni Irwin, 1883.
Harry Chase in the
New York Times
A New York Times article, entitled "Once Forgotten Past, Now Recalled in Painting," which incorporates a section about my research into the life and work of Harry Chase was published June 13, 2014. You can read the article at the link below. The section on Harry Chase begins at the bottom of the second column.