Habits of Mind

  • Observe Details
  • Communicate

Chase After the Teaching Artist

Discussion through works of art encourage how to approach ambiguous and complex ideas, thoughts, and feelings. The MFAH offers a democratic space where students and teachers can develop, practice and articulate these habits of mind. Remember that the quality of the conversation is what is important, not finding the artist’s “answer.” Slow down and take the time to make careful observations. Talk about what you notice, and try to avoid jumping to conclusions and interpretations. Be sure to give enough time for silent looking and thinking.




• Chase was not only an important painter, but also an important teacher. Why, at this point in American art history, was it important to have influential artists teaching? Discuss the importance of teaching and the impact you think Chase’s Shinnecock Summer School of Art had on the arts community. Did artists need to continue to study in Europe? Why or why not?

  • Art: Go to MFAH online or in person to compare this painting with Claude Monet’s The Windmill on Onbekende, Gracht, Amsterdam. Observe and analyze shared themes, brush strokes, colors, texture, mood/message, etc.
  • ELA: Read the poem entitled “Sunlight and Shadow” in A View, A Clue, and You*.  Analyze the effect of meter and structural elements such as line breaks. Compose a poem using genre characteristics and craft based on another Impressionist work of art at the MFAH such Claude Monet’s The Windmill on Onbekende, Gracht, Amsterdam.

*A View, A Clue, and You: Poetry and American Art the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston by LuAnn Turley and Rita Whiteman. 

An international artist, beloved teacher, and spokesman, Chase was a dominant figure in the art world during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Born in Indiana, Chase moved to New York to study at the National Academy of Design. With the support of wealthy patrons, Chase was able to study and travel in Europe where, working with fellow artists, he honed his skills as an artist.

Chase returned to New York in 1878 and began his teaching career at the Art Students League. He also continued to travel in Europe, which brought him in contact with the most influential artists of the day, including Claude Monet, who Chase had the rare opportunity to paint with at his home in Giverny.

In 1891 Chase founded the Shinnecock Summer School of Art on Long Island, the first important summer art school in America. Teaching was important to Chase, and he continued to hold positions at various other art institutions in and around New York. A lifelong teacher, Chase even escorted his students, including Marsden Hartley and Georgia O’Keeffe, on annual summer trips to Europe.

Chase’s travels abroad slowed after he married, and his work eventually focused more on American subject matter. At this time, Chase’s attention was drawn to Long Island, where he and his family initially spent their summers and where Chase eventually opened his art school. In Sunlight and Shadow, Shinnecock Hills Chase transforms the relatively flat, sandy countryside into a sunlight-filled landscape. Chase included in his landscape plants and flowers native to Long Island’s grassy dunes and a sliver of blue water in the background, complete with small white sailboats. Here, Chase demonstrates his ability to make the ordinary extraordinary.

Chase was an American Impressionist. In his teaching he emphasized painting “en plein-air,” or outdoors, a technique most commonly associated with the French Impressionists. Chase’s work, such as Sunlight and Shadow, Shinnecock Hills, captures the essence of the American Impressionist movement. For example, Chase was known to emphasize brushwork, light, and color by mixing fresh color directly on the canvas and thus imbuing his landscape with the changing qualities of light and texture directly as he experienced them. Also, like the French Impressionists, Chase and the American Impressionists preferred painting scenes of daily life in rural landscapes. Like many artists of the time, Chase developed his own interpretation of Impressionism, drawing on what he admired most about contemporary artists.

Chase once said that he would “... rather go to Europe than go to heaven.” American artists at the turn of the century knew that to find training, camaraderie, and inspiration they would have to travel to France, Germany, or England. Chase was drawn to the French Impressionists and their preference for painting outdoor scenes and ability to capture light and atmosphere. When he returned to the United States, Chase taught other artists the Impressionist style, making a substantial contribution to Impressionism in America.

The Learning Through Art program is endowed by Melvyn and Cyvia Wolff.

The Learning Through Art curriculum website is made possible in part by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

All Learning and Interpretation programs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, receive endowment income from funds provided by the Louise Jarrett Moran Bequest; Caroline Wiess Law; the William Randolph Hearst Foundation; The National Endowment for the Humanities; the Fondren Foundation; BMC Software, Inc.; the Wallace Foundation; the Neal Myers and Ken Black Children’s Art Fund; the Favrot Fund; and Gifts in honor of Beth Schneider