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William Merritt Chase, an influential art teacher and one of the leading exponents of American impressionism, captured the genteel, privileged life of polite society in the 1890s. A Friendly Call, set in Chase's elegant summer house at Shinnecock Hills, Long Island, shows two fashionably dressed women in a large, airy room decorated with prints, paintings, hanging textiles, and a large, gilt–framed mirror. The artist's wife Alice, on the right, listens attentively to her visitor, who is still wearing her hat and gloves and carrying a parasol.

Chase's rendering of light, his facile brushwork, and his choice of everyday subject matter all recall the work of the French impressionists; yet, unlike his European contemporaries, the artist carefully composed his paintings to underscore abstract elements. Simple rectangular patterns of the floor, wall, and couch are echoed in the framed pictures and wall hangings while they are contrasted to the more curvilinear figures, chair, and plump pillows. The mirror framing Mrs. Chase offers a surprising reflection of a wall behind the viewer; Chase's compositional arrangement and his use of reflected imagery suggest that he may have been paying homage to the 17th–century Spanish artist Velázquez, whose much–admired painting Las Meninas displays a similarly inventive studio interior.

More information on this painting can be found in the Gallery publication American Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part I, pages 55-60, which is available as a free PDF at


lower left: Wm. M. Chase. / copyright 1895


Samuel T. Shaw, 1895;[1] (his sale, American Art Association, New York, 21-22 January 1926, no. 193); Chester Dale [1883-1962], New York; gift 1943 to NGA.

Exhibition History

Catalogue of the Seventeenth Annual Exhibition, Society of American Artists, New York, 1895, no. 270.
Catalogue of the Eight Annual Exhibition of Oil Paintings, Sculpture, and Ceramics by American Artists, Nebraska Art Association, Lincoln, 1901-1902, 13, no. 17.
Exhibition of Fine Arts, Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, New York, 1901, no. 522.
Universal Exposition [Commemorating the Louisiana Purchase 1803], St. Louis, 1904, no. 131.
William Merritt Chase Retrospective Exhibition, National Arts Club, New York, 1910, no. 1.
Loan Exhibition of Paintings by William M. Chase, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1917, no. 21.
American Genre: The Social Scene in Painting & Prints, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1935, no. 20.
An Exhibition of American Genre Paintings, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, 1936, no. 21.
An Exhibition of American Paintings from the Chester Dale Collection, The Union League Club, New York, 1937, no. 33.
Life in America [A Special Loan Exhibition of Paintings Held During the Period of the New York World's Fair], The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1939, no. 284, repro.
An Exhibition of Great Paintings in Aid of the Canadian Red Cross and of Small Paintings by Members of the Ontario Society of Artists, The Art Gallery of Toronto, Canada, 1940, 25, no. 115.
Masterpieces of Art. European & American Paintings 1500-1900, New York World's Fair, May-October 1940, no. 311.
American Paintings, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1943.
American Painting from the Eighteenth Century to the Present Day, Tate Gallery, London, 1946, no. 41a.
The Chester Dale Bequest, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1965, unnumbered checklist.
American Impressionist Painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Cincinnati Art Museum, Ohio; The North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, 1973, 39, no. 20 (shown only at the National Gallery of Art).
William Merritt Chase: Summers at Shinnecock, 1891-1902, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, 1987, 49-50, 56, 60-63, no. 21 (shown only at the National Gallery of Art).
From Impressionism to Modernism: The Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, January 2010-January 2012, unnumbered catalogue, repro.

Technical Summary

A translucent off-white ground covers the medium-weight, plain-weave fabric. The tacking margins were removed, but cusping is found along all four edges. The paint is applied in layers of both wet-into-wet and wet-over-dry, with some scratching through the layers caused by the use of a stiff-bristled brush. In general, infrared reflectography shows no evidence of underdrawing, although pencil and incised lines are used in the vertical window that is reflected in the mirror at the right. There are some small scattered losses, but the paint is in good condition. The artist used abrasion as a conscious technical device, particularly in the upper part of the painting. Discolored varnish was removed when the painting was lined in 1970.


Cortissoz, Royal. "Spring Art Exhibitions. The Society of American Artists." Harper's Weekly 38 (6 April 1895): 318, repro. 316.
"News of the Fine Arts." Monthly Illustrator 4 (second quarter 1895): vi.
Poindexter, Phillip. "A Foremost American Painter." Leslie's Weekly 80 (16 May 1895): 319.
"Society of American Artists." Art Amateur 32 (May 1895): 157.
"Society of American Artists. Opening of the Seventeenth Annual Exhibition." New York Sun (24 March 1895).
Cox, Kenyon. "Some American Figure Painters." Cosmopolitan 32 (April 1902): 592, repro., as The Afternoon Call.
"Paintings to be Sold at Auction." American Art Annual 23 (1926): 361.
Cortissoz, Royal. "A Famous School Shows its Laurel." New York Herald Tribune (14 February 1939): 4.
Watson, Forbes. "My Country 'Tis of Thee." Magazine of Art 32 no. 6 (June 1939): 335, repro. 328.
"American Painting of the 18th and 19th Centuries in the Tate Gallery Exhibition." Antiques 51 (February 1947): no. 23, repro. 103.
Walker, John. "American Masters in the National Gallery of Art." National Geographic Magazine 94 (September 1948): 324, color repro. 320.
Peat, Wilbur D. "Checklist of Known Work by William M. Chase." In Chase Centennial Exhibition. Exh. cat. John Herron Art Institute, Indianapolis, 1949: unpaginated.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 328, repro.
Paintings other than French in the Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 40, repro.
Wilmerding, John. Pittura Americana dell' Ottocento. Milan, 1967: 24, color repro. 82, as Una Visita Amicherole.
American Paintings and Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970: 40, repro.
Campbell, William P. "The American Heritage at the National Gallery of Art." The Connoisseur 178 (December 1971): 268.
Hoopes, Donelson F. The American Impressionists. New York, 1972: 42, color repro. 43.
Maass, John. The Victorian Home in America. New York, 1972: repro. 178, pl. 28.
Domit, Moussa M. American Impressionist Painting. Washington, 1973: 39, 72, 77, no. 20, repro. 77.
Wilmerding, John. Audubon, Homer, Whistler, and Nineteenth Century America. New York, 1975: 16, color repro. 74, as A Friendly Visit.
Wilmerding, John. American Art. Harmondsworth, England, and New York, 1976: 145, pl. 175.
Young, Mahonri Sharp. American Realists: Homer to Hopper. New York, 1977: repro. 103.
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1980: 130, repro.
Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1980: 10, 16, no. 46, color repro.
Canaday, John. Mainstreams of Modern Art. 2d ed. New York, 1981: 281, repro. 280.
Hoopes, Donelson F. "American Impressionism." Portfolio 3 (January-February 1981): 56, color repro. 56-57.
Williams, William James. A Heritage of American Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1981: color repro. 162, 186-7.
Betsky, Celia. "In the Artists Studio." Portfolio 4 (January-February 1982): 38, color repro. cover.
Pisano, Ronald G. A Leading Spirit in American Art: William Merritt Chase, 1849-1916. Seattle, 1983: 11, 163, repro. 165.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 561, no. 853, color repro.
Cikovsky, Nicolai, Jr. "Interiors and Interiority." In Atkinson D. Scott, and Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr. William Merritt Chase: Summers at Shinnecock 1891-1902. Exh Cat. Natl. Gallery of Art, Washington, 1987: 49-50, 56, 60-63, 91, fig. 18, color repro. 21.
Cikovsky, Nicolai, Jr. "William Merrit Chase at Shinnecock Hills." Antiques 132 (August 1987): 295, 298, color repro. 300.
Gaehtgens, Thomas W. Bilder aus der Neuen Welt: Amerikanische Malerei des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts: Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Thyssen-Bornemisza und Museen der Vereinigten Staaten. Exh. cat. 2 venues. Munich, 1988: 118, repro.
Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. Rev. ed. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1988: 152, no. 53, color repro.
Gere, Charlotte. Nineteenth-Century Decoration: The Art of the Interior. London, 1989: 351, no. 430, color repro. 351.
Bryant, Jr., Keith L., William Merritt Chase: A Genteel Bohemian. Columbia, Missouri, 1991: 142 and 164, repro. 165.
Gingold, Diane J., and Elizabeth A.C. Weil. The Corporate Patron. New York, 1991: 36-37, color repro.
Gordon, Alastair. "Village Voice." Art and Antiques (May 1991): 94, color repro. 93.
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 141, repro.
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 245, repro.
Gallati, Barbara Dyer. William Merritt Chase. New York, 1995: 43.
Kelly, Franklin, with Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., Deborah Chotner, and John Davis. American Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part I. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1996: 55-60, color repro.
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 304-305, no. 245, color repro.
Kelly, Franklin. "A Lasting Legacy: The Completion of an Unparalleled Gift." National Gallery of Art Bulletin no. 51 (Fall 2014): 8, repro.

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