William Merritt Chase

William Merritt Chase
(1849-1916)

By
Armand Cabrera

William Merritt Chase was born in Williamsburg, Indiana. His father operated a successful business as a harness maker. When William was 12, the Chase family moved to Indianapolis where his father opened a shoe store. The young Chase had always shown an interest in art. His father, understanding his son would never follow in the shoe business, took William to a local artist to study art. This was followed by a trip to New York to continue his studies at the National Academy of Design. In New York, he had some success as a still life painter. In 1871, he returned to his family who had moved to St. Louis. Chase opened a studio there. His success was not as great as it was in New York and it was only through the generosity of a few art patrons that Chase was given the chance to go to Europe to continue his training.


In 1872, Chase began classes in Munich at the Royal Academy. Chase’s success at the academy culminated with a commission by the director, Karl Von Piloty. Chase was asked to paint portraits of Piloty’s four children. This endorsement assured Chase’s success as a painter. Before returning home to America, he was offered a position at the newly created Art Students League along with his friend and fellow student, Frank Duveneck. Chase continued to teach at the League until 1896. His exceptional skills as an artist combined with his charismatic nature and unlimited energy made him an instant success as a teacher and artist in America. This vitality allowed him to teach continually at several schools, execute numerous portrait commissions, act as head of art organizations and exhibit in annual competitions.

An accomplished portrait painter, Chase was also a dedicated outdoor painter. He believed in teaching painting from life, whether it was for still life, portrait or landscape painting. Chase was the founder of the first professional American school of outdoor painting on Long Island. The Shinnecock Summer School of Art was started in 1891 and continued until 1902. Subsequently, Chase continued classes abroad and around the country and concluded his teaching in 1913—just three years before his death.

Bibliography

William Merritt Chase 1849-1916
Ronald G. Pisano

Summer Afternoons The Landscape Paintings of William Merritt Chase
Ronald G. Pisano

William Merritt Chase:Modern American Landscapes
Barbara Dayer Gallati

Quote

I believe in single sitting impressions. If you will acquire the ability and facility to do rapidly the thing that might otherwise cause you great trouble and time, you will place yourself in a position to record a great many things that do not last long. Nature rarely repeats itself, and one does not always find oneself in the same state of mind. It is necessary to acquire all the facility possible, so you can immediately express yourself without hesitation. —– William Merritt Chase

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Alfred Munnings

Sir Alfred James Munnings

By
Armand Cabrera

Alfred James Munnings was born in England on October 8, 1878. He was the second son of John Munnings, a miller. Munnings left school at the age of 14 for a six-year apprenticeship with a firm of lithographers in Norwich. By day he excelled as a lithographic draughtsman. He studied painting at night. Although Munnings was offered a job after finishing his lithographers’ apprenticeship, he turned it down. Instead, he bought a carpenters shop and converted it into an artist studio. He supported himself through freelance poster work and the occasional sale of paintings. Within months of this decision, he tragically lost his right eye in an accident. However, the loss did not affect his determination to paint. In his autobiography, Munnings wrote of his difficulties. “I wasn’t allowed to use my right eye for months and when I went to paint my brush either hit the canvas before I knew it was there or was not touching it. Mostly it was the latter and I found myself making strokes in the air nearer and nearer until I touched the painted surface…”


Munnings would travel with his man, Bob, a gypsy boy called Shrimp and seven or eight horses, ponies, a donkey, a blue painted caravan and a cart for his painting materials—all would be his models. They would travel until suitable country was found and then spend weeks painting in the open air.

In 1918, Munnings became an official war artist with the Canadian Calvary Brigade. His painting of General Jack Seely on his horse became a turning point in Munnings career. Munnings was able to skillfully capture both the rider’s portrait as well as the horse. This led to many commissions and brought him money and fame.

In 1920, Munnings married Violet McBride. Violet was confident of her husband’s greatness as an artist and tended to all his business matters and promotion.

Over the course of his long career, 289 of Alfred Munnings’ paintings hung in the Royal Academy Exhibitions. He was elected President of the Royal Academy in 1947 and was knighted that same year. In 1949, his last speech as President caused quite a stir. He publicly excoriated members for practicing modern art. The affront was exacerbated by the fact that Munnings speech was broadcast live to millions of people. He was always brutally honest in his opinions and this speech was no exception.

Munnings died in 1959. His wish was that his paintings be left to the Nation to promote ‘traditional art’. Lady Munnings established their home, “Castle House”, as a museum. The house, studio, 40 acres of land and all of Munnings paintings in Lady Munnings possession were put into a trust and are now open to the public.

Bibliography
Sir Alfred Munnings
1878-1959
Stanley Booth

A.J. Munnings
An Appreciation of the Artist and a Selection of His Paintings

Stanley Booth

Quote
If a man sees right and can draw-every artist should draw, although fools say it does not matter today-he needs no photograph.

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John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent
By
Armand Cabrera

John Singer Sargent was born on the 12th of January 1856 in Florence Italy. His parents had left America to live in Europe. Because the family constantly traveled, Sargent developed few ties to any one country. He spoke four languages, played the piano and mandolin expertly, and held a great knowledge of literature and art.

Sargent enrolled in the Atelier of Carolus Duran when he was 18 years old. Duran’s approach to painting was to stress accurate values combined with free and rapid brushwork, Au Premier Coup. Sargent quickly rose to the top of his class. His bravura style and naturalist subject matter was well received by critics. Sargent painted with Monet; however, he was never an Impressionist. He was too grounded in academic training to relinquish good drawing and strong value plans for color alone.

In the beginning of his career, Sargent painted society portraits. He created a scandal when he painted a famous society woman in a risky pose with one strap of her dress fallen off her shoulder. The now famous portrait of Madame X seems tame by today’s standards of taste. At that time period, the painting caused such a stir that Sargent was forced to flee Paris for London.

As a portrait painter, Sargent had no equal. His ability to render the subtlest expressions kept him busy throughout his career. His seemingly effortless brushwork garnered him praise and criticism. Sergent’s most vocal critics claimed he had too much facility and no content in his work.

At the peak of his success in 1907, Sargent abandoned painting portraits. His interest in his mural projects and landscape paintings replaced his need for commissioned work. Sergent’s successes provided sufficient income to stick to his principles…except in a few rare occasions. Sargent’s landscape and figure paintings are a tour de force of bravura painting. His watercolors of Venetian scenes are especially fine examples of this style.

John Singer Sargent died in 1925 at the age of sixty.

Bibliography

John Singer Sargent Catalogue Raisonné Project (In Four Volumes)
Elaine Kilmurray and Richard Ormond
Yale University Press

Sargent Abroad
Elaine Kilmurray and Richard Ormond
Yale University Press

John Singer Sargent
Carter Ratcliff
Abbeville/ Artabras

QuoteOnly after years of the contemplation of Nature can the process of selection become so sure an instinct; and a handling so spontaneous and so freed from the commonplaces is final mastery, the result of long artistic training.
~John Singer Sargent
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Edward Seago

Edward Seago

1910-1974

By
Armand Cabrera

Edward Brian Seago was born in Norwich, England. A heart condition caused him to be homeschooled and spend a considerable amount of time at rest. It was his mother, an amateur watercolorist, who encouraged Seago to paint. Although primarily self-taught, Seago received some instruction from Bertram Priestman. As a young man, Seago lived a dual life—spending time with the circus performers and gypsies and accepting patronage from prominent society. It was his connection to society that helped Seago achieve the financial success he deserved. His affiliations with prominent art dealers, especially Tom Baskett of P. and D. Colnaghi Galleries, gave Seago the steady promotion of his work, which was lacking in the prewar years. Following the war, the gallery had solo shows of Seago’s works, alternating annually with his watercolors and oils.


At a time when most artists chased so-called “modern art principals”, Seago tenaciously clung to his own idea of painting. Ignored by critics and the art establishment of the time, the public increasingly embraced his honest depictions of East Anglia and his travels abroad. Seago’s influence can be seen in a new group of British painters, including Trevor Chamberlain, Ron Ranson, and David Curtis.

Seago was a member of the Royal Society of British Artists from 1946 and the Royal Watercolors Society from 1959. He exhibited in London, Glasgow, New York, Toronto, Montreal, Los Angeles, Oslo and Brussels.

Bibliography

Edward Seago: The Landscape ArtJames W. Reid
Sotheby’s 1991

Edward Seago
Ron Ranson
David and Charles 1987

QuoteYou can have technique without art, but I do not believe you can have art without technique.~Edward Seago

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Wilhem Kuhnert

Wilhem Kuhnert
1865-1926
By
Armand Cabrera
Wilhelm Kuhnert was born in Germany on September 28, 1865. At the age of seventeen, he traveled to Berlin to stay with relatives and enroll at the Royal Academy of Berlin. While at the Academy, he studied Animal Painting under Paul Meyerheim and Landscape Painting under Ferdinand Bellerman. Although considerable attention was paid to studying anatomy, the students would sketch captive animals in a zoo and then make formal paintings in their studio—making up the environments from the artists’ imagination. Kuhnert decided to change this. After seeing some African animals at a fair, the young artist vowed to travel to Africa and paint animals in their native habitat.


Upon leaving the Royal Academy, he acquired a studio in Berlin. While Kuhnert was sketching at the Berlin Zoo, he was introduced to Hans Meyer, the first European to climb Kilimanjaro. Meyer was impressed with Kuhnert’s ability and promised the young artist the chance to illustrate his next book. Kuhnert told Meyer of his goal of traveling to Africa to paint the animals in their natural settings. Meyer suggested he travel to East Africa and even gave Kuhnert his safari equipment.

Good to his word, Meyer commissioned Kuhnert to illustrate Brehms Tierbuilder, a dictionary of animals from around the world. With the proceeds from the book, Kuhnert traveled to Africa in 1891.

At that time, the East African Colony was a vast, unexplored territory for most Germans. Kuhnert traveled the only way available—accompanied by a score of men to act as guides and carry the hundreds of pounds of gear and supplies needed for such a journey. A year later, he returned to Germany with dozens of paintings, sketches and drawings of the African animals, people and places.
In 1893, Kuhnert’s paintings went on display at the Berliner Art Exhibition and he took the Medal of Honor. The public responded to his truthful depictions of the great continent. At only 28 years of age, Kuhnert’s success seemed assured.

He married in 1894 and moved to a larger studio. The attraction of Africa could not keep him home, so in 1905, he left his wife and daughter and returned to what he called “The Promised Land”. After a year on the continent, rather than returning home, he traveled to Ceylon. Unable to stand his long absences, his wife left him in 1907. Kuhnert finally returned to Germany in 1908.

He returned to Africa once more in 1911. Two years later, he remarried. In 1920, Kuhnert published two books on African Wildlife—“Im Lande Meiner Modelle” (in the Land of My Model) and “Mein Tierre” (My Animals). He died February 11, 1926 at the age of 60—five months after his second wife had passed away.

It is believed Kuhnert’s body of work totaled 5,500 paintings—primarily animals, but also portraits and landscapes. Today, there are less than a thousand known works in existence. The rest of his paintings were destroyed or lost in World War II.

Bibliography

The Animal Art of Wilhelm KuhnertTerry Weiland
Live Oak press 1995

Quote

Wilhelm Kuhnert’s Achievements can be measured by more than just aesthetics. His Greatest merit was that he was the first artist to paint wild animals in their natural habitat. ~Fritz Meyer-Schoenbrunn in his introduction to Kuhnert’s second book, Meine Tiere (My Animals)

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