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 Joseph Cummings Chase  (1878 - 1965)

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Lived/Active: New York/Maine      Known for: portrait, genre-war artist, designer

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Ad Code: 4
Joseph Cummings Chase
from Auction House Records.
Portrait of Ruth Draper
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Portraitist Joseph Chase was born in Maine, and had an innate attitude for the Old Masters. He studied at the Pratt Institute and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Later he took instruction in Paris at the Julian Academy under the aegis of Jean Paul Laurens.

Chases father was a notable mathematician; young Chase wrote a book on design and taught the subject for years. He was also a Dean of Hunter College. Not surprisingly, a sense of design and rhythm is evident in his work.

Chase painted hundreds of portraits, both complete canvases, and what he called, with great modesty, sketch portraits lacking an elaborate background. Splendid execution can be seen in his 142 paintings of generals and soldier heroes of World War I, often depicted under trying conditions such as the front lines. Fifty of these can be seen at the National Gallery in Washington.

Few artists have left a more human record for posterity than can be found in Chases book on the painters career. In it he wrote about numerous people who sat for his portraits: "just why a sitter often talks about religion I do not know, unless it is because he feels that he is being looked into with psychoanalytic eyes. Schwab was an easy sitter, talking about a great variety of things. However, on the first occasion, was the most nervous subject I ever had. Helen Wills asked endless questions about art education, for she is bent on an art career. Her mouth and eyebrows show high-minded bravery. General Pershing chatted about the Latin Quarter. Norma Talmadge told me about her parents, her childhood, and her public. Borah told me of the long hours he spent daily in preparation for his work in the Senate. Morgenthau talked about himself."

Among portraits by Chase are those of Theodore Roosevelt, Warren G. Harding, Professor George F. Canfield, for Columbia University, James T. Powers as Bob Acres in "The Rivals," Junius Spencer Morgan, Sir Henry W. Thornton.

Chase also applied his artistic talents to window design, including work for Saks Fifth Avenue in New York. "The conception of window display was first transformed by Joseph Cummings Chase, whose windows for McCreery's on Thirty-fourth Street pioneered simplified design, replacing the jumble of merchandise that previously characterized the windows with a few objects placed to create a dramatic backdrop for, say, a woman's dress or coat, and using furniture instead of the traditional ornamental fixtures to hold merchandise in place. Saks Fifth Avenue carried Chase's principle much further, employing the architect Fritz Kiesler in 1927 and the sculptor Alexander Archipenko in 1929 to design simple, striking displays."

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