William Merritt Chase (1849–1916)

Morning at Breakwater, Shinnecock, c. 1897

Oil on canvas, 40 x 50 in. (101.6 x 127.0 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.30

An accomplished oil and pastel painter, William Merritt Chase was the principal instructor at the popular, seasonal Shinnecock Hills Summer School of Art, founded in 1891 on Long Island. During his months there, Chase devoted himself to plein-air painting and produced numerous serene evocations of Peconic Bay’s sandy shore, including Morning at Breakwater, Shinnecock. In this expansive view, a group of women and playful children populate the beach, shielded from rough waters by the stone breakwater. While the loose brushwork demonstrates the artist’s knowledge of impressionist principles, the composition is carefully orchestrated with a steep diagonal formed by the breakwater’s boardwalk. Suggesting the triumph of man-made order over the unpredictable forces of nature, this rigid line delineates a safe area devoted to family leisure and thus epitomizes Chase’s domestic ideal.

Learn more about this painting on the Terra Foundation website.