Artwork Details

William Merritt Chase


Lady in Opera Cloak (Portrait of Miss C.)
c. 1893
Oil on canvas
56 x 56 inches
Level 3 Gallery 1 – 7
Accession Number
Gift of Emily J. Clark

About the Artwork

This dramatic portrait of a strikingly pale model in a luxurious fur-lined cloak is characteristic of William Merritt Chase’s painting style. In its pairing of white fabrics against an unadorned background it echoes the portraits of James McNeill Whistler. During the artist’s lifetime the painting was exhibited under different titles: it debuted as Portrait of Miss C. at the 1893 Society of American Artists exhibition, then a few years later was shown as Lady in Opera Cloak. The artist himself described the model, Minnie Clark, as the very subject I had long hoped to find — a perfect type of American womanhood. A clear-cut, classic face with splendid profile…and above all else, dignity and simplicity…” She appears in four of Chase’s paintings, all executed in or around 1893.

Born in Williamsburg, Indiana, Chase first studied under portrait painter Barton Hays (1826 – 1875). He continued his training from 1872 to 1877 in Germany at the Royal Academy in Munich. After five years of training, Chase returned to New York and taught at the Art Students League, the Brooklyn Art Association, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Chase was as exceptional a teacher as he was an artist, and in 1891 he founded the Shinnecock Summer School of Art near Southampton, Long Island. In 1896 he also founded the Chase School, which later became the New York School of Art. A very popular teacher, he taught his students to paint directly from nature, and outspokenly advocated that painting technique should take supremacy over subject matter.