In the Park (A By-path)

William Merritt Chase

En el parque (Un camino)

Chase, William Merritt

Williamsburg (hoy Ninevah) - 1849 - Nueva York, 1916

In the Park (A By-path), c. 1889

© Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza

Signed lower left: ''Wm. M. Chase''
Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on loan to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Oil on canvas

35,5 x 49 cm


Artwork history

  • George I. Seney, New York.

  • American Art Galleries, New York, February 11th-13th, 1891. lot 24.

  • Samuel Untermeyer, New York.

  • Parke Bernet Galleries, New York, May 16th, 1940. lot 522.

  • Private Collection.

  • Andrew Crispo Gallery, New York.

  • Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Lugano, 1979.

  • Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on loan to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid.


Masters of American Painting, New York, Andrew Crispo Gallery.

1982 - 1983

American Impressionists (Exhibition organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Services), Paris, Petit Palais; Berlin, Staatliche Museen; Krakow, National Gallery; Bucharest, Art Museum; Sofia, National Gallery of Art, nº 6.


Maestri Americani della Collezione Thyssen-Bornemisza, Vatican City, Musei Vaticani, nº 55.


Maestri Americani della Collezione Thyssen-Bornemisza, Lugano, Villa Malpensata, nº 53.

1984 - 1986

American Masters: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Baltimore (MD), The Baltimore Museum of Art; Detroit (MI), The Detroit Institute of Arts; Denver (CO), Denver Art Museum; San Antonio (TX), Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute; New York (NY), IBM Gallery of Arts and Sciences; San Diego (CA), San Diego Museum of Art; Palm Beach (FL), The Society of the Four Arts, nº 55.


Mestres americans del segle XIX de la Col·lecció Thyssen-Bornemisza, Barcelona, Palau de la Virreina, nº 13, pp. 45, 127.

1988 - 1989

Bilder aus der Neuen Welt. Amerikanische Malerei des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts. Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Thyssen-Bornemisza und Museen der Vereinigten Staaten, Berlin, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz; Zurich, Kunsthaus Zürich, nº 82, illus.


Impressionismo americano. Capolavori da collezioni pubbliche e private degli Stati Uniti d’America, Lugano, Villa Favorita, nº 36, p. 94.


Capolavori dalla Collezione di Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza: 60º anniversario dell'apertura della Pinacotecca di Villa Favorita, Lugano, Villa Favorita, nº 66, p. 178.

1997 - 1998

The Spirit of the Place. Masterworks from the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, New York, The Frick Collection; Hartford (CT), Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, nº 17 (only in Hartford), p. 58.


Aspectos de la tradición paisajística en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Málaga, Salas de Exposiciones del Palacio Episcopal, nº 77, p. 236.

2000 - 2001

William Merritt Chase. Modern American Landscapes (1886-1890), New York, Brooklyn Museum; Chicago (IL), The Art Institute of Chicago; Houston (TX), The Museum of Fine Arts, nº 46, p. 142.


Impressionist Gardens, Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland, nº 56, pp. 86 (illus.), 159.

2010 - 2011

Jardines impresionistas, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza - Fundación Caja Madrid, nº 99, p.259, illus.


La tradición moderna en la Colección Carmen Thyssen. Monet, Picasso, Matisse, Miró, Málaga, Museo Carmen Thyssen Málaga, p. 70, illus. p. 71.

2012 - 2013

Rusiñol, Monet, Gauguin, Sunyer. El paisaje en la Colección Carmen Thyssen, Gerona, CaixaForum; Tarragona, CaixaForum; Lérida, CaixaForum, nº 25, pp. 100-101, illus. p. 101.

2014 - 2015

Impresionismo americano, Giverny, Musée des impressionnismes; Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland; Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, s. n., p. 96, illus. [only in Edinburgh and Madrid].


Allées et venues. Gauguin y cuatro siglos de caminos en el arte. Museu Carmen Thyssen Andorra, p. 82-83 y 102.

  • -Kay, C. de: ”Mr. Chase and Central Park’‘. In Harper’s Weekly. May 2nd, 1891, nº 35, pp. 324, 327-328, illus. [as: “A By-path”].

  • -Novak, Barbara: ”American Impressionism’‘. In Portfolio. March-April 1982, nº 4, p. 73, illus. [as: ”In the Park”].

  • -Novak, Barbara: Nineteenth-Century American Painting: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. Ellis, Elizabeth Garrity… [et al.]. London, Sotheby´s Publications, 1986 , nº 98, pp. 282-285, illus. [Sheet by Kenneth W. Maddox].

  • -Gaehtgens, Thomas W. (ed.): Bilder aus der Neuen Welt. Amerikanische Malerei des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts. Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Thyssen-Bornemisza und Museen der Vereinigten Staaten. Adams, Willi Paul. [et al.]. [Exhib. Cat. Berlin, Nationalgalerie – Zurich, Kunsthaus Zürich, 1988-1989]. Munich, Prestel, 1988 , s.p. [Sheet by Von Bismarck].

  • -Bryant, K. L.: William Merritt Chase: A Genteel Bohemian. Columbia (MO) – London, 1991, p. 118 [as: ”In the Park”].

  • -Impressionismo americano. Capolavori da collezioni pubbliche e private degli Stati Uniti d’America. [Exhib. cat.]. Gerdts, W. H. (ed.). Lugano, Villa Favorita, 1990, p. 94, illus. [Sheet by Gerdts].

  • -Gerdts, W. H.: Impressionist New York. New York – London – Paris, 1994, pp. 130-131, illus.

  • -Gallati, Barbara Dayer: William Merritt Chase: modern American landscapes, 1886-1890. [Exhib. Cat. New York, Brooklyn Museum of Art – Houston (TX), The Museum of Fine Arts, 2000-01]. Brooklyn (NY), Brooklyn Museum of Art in association with H. Abrams, 1999, pp. 123, 126, 142, 173, 175, 179, illus. [Sheet by Gallati].

  • -Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. Arnaldo, Javier (ed.). 2 vols. Madrid, Fundación Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2004, vol. 2, p. 226, illus. p. 227 [Sheet by Kenneth W. Maddox].

  • -Pisano, Ronald G.: The Complete Catalogue of Known and Documented Work by William Merritt Chase (1849-1916). Lane, Carol K., Baker, D. Frederick. New Haven-London, Yale University Press, 2006-2009 , vol. 3, nº L.130, pp. 64 (illus.) and 65 [as “ca. 1889”].

  • -Willsdon, Clare A. P.: Impressionist Gardens [Exhib. Cat.]. Edinburgh, National Galleries of Scotland, 2010 , nº 56, pp. 86 (illus.), 159.

  • -Alarcó, P. and Borobia, M. (eds.): Guía de la colección. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2012, p. 220, illus.

  • -Bourguignon, Katherine M.: “La pintura impresionista en Norteamérica”, in Giverny/Edinburgh/Madrid 2014, pp. 36-47, illus. p. 37, det. p. 36.

  • -Bourguignon, Katherine M. [ed.]: Impresionismo americano. [Exhib. Cat. Giverny, Musée des impressionnismes Giverny; Edinburgh, National Galleries of Scotland; Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza]. Malakoff, Hazan, 2014.

  • -Allées et venues. Gauguin y cuatro siglos de caminos en el arte. Museu Carmen Thyssen Andorra, 2018. p. 82-83 y 102. [Exhib. Cat.] [Sheet by Kenneth W. Maddox]

Expert report

During the 1880s Chase turned his attention to the plein-air landscape. For several years he made small, quickly-executed studies in Prospect Park, Brooklyn; and upon moving to New York at the end of the decade, he began to paint Central Park. In the Park is the picture, A By-Path, described in an 1891 article on Chase’s Central Park landscapes as including “one of those sections of rough rock-work which give character to many nooks and corners of the Park at the same time that they serve a useful end. Here, again, the ever present nurse and child recall the purposes for which Central Park and many another park of New York have been established.”

The “rough rock-work” noted by the author was the remaining foundation wall of Mount Saint Vincent, a convent for the Sisters of Charity situated in the northeast corner of the Park near 105th Street and Fifth Avenue. In 1847 the Roman Catholic Order purchased the area that was originally the site of McGown’s Tavern built in the 1750s. The convent, which included a boarding school for several hundred female students, was incorporated as park land in 1859 under Olmsted and Vaux’s development of Central Park. The building served briefly as a military hospital during the Civil War, and then the old convent building reverted to a tavern that catered to the wealthy carriage trade. Mount Saint Vincent burned to the ground in 1881, but was soon rebuilt as another saloon, now named the McGown’s Pass Tavern. It was torn down in 1917 by the New York reform mayor, John Purroy Mitchel, who desired to maintain the natural qualities of the park. The foundation wall, but not the pathway, still remains today.

Like many of the American Impressionists, Chase often used a converging pathway to lead into his composition. The foreground of In the Park is left empty, with the figures placed upstage, their white and pink-and-red dresses acting as contrasts to the green tonality of the landscape. The artist used his wife and their first child, Alice Dieudonnée, known as Cosy, who was around two and a half at the time, as models. The gesture of the woman on the bench, leaning forward with her head slightly turned toward the viewer, was previously used by Chase in A City Park, 1887, The Art Institute of Chicago, which shows Tompkins Park in Brooklyn.

Chase was one of the first artists to use the parks created by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in the 1860s as subjects for his paintings. Man-made urban parks were a popular motif for the French modernists, but for Chase’s contemporaries to paint “the smug symmetries of a public park landscape” was a radical departure from the norms of landscape painting. The critic Charles De Kay observed that Chase “has hit upon a discovery which is yet to be made by a very great proportion of the inhabitants of New York. He has discovered Central Park. Not that most New York people do not know there is such a place, and are not more or less proud of it, but comparatively few of them ever go into it, and when they do go, they rarely see anything.”

Chase’s small paintings of the parks were considered by Kenyon Cox to be “veritable little jewels,” evidence that it is not subjects that were lacking in America, but eyes to see them. “Let no artist again complain of lack of material,” he wrote in 1889, “when such things as these are to be seen at his very door, and let the public cease complaining of the un-American quality of American art.” The park landscape offered a compromise between the wilderness and the city: “Indeed, why should not these exquisite scenes of Central Park,” De Kay argued, “find their way from the artist’s easel to the walls of citizens as easily as pictures of Niagara, or views taken in Lutetia Parisiorium.” However, it was the next generation of painters, those associated with Robert Henri, who enthusiastically celebrated the urban park as part of the American scene.

Kenneth W. Maddox