It looks so informal. William Merritt Chase painted three of his daughters in this picture. They are playing Ring Toss, a popular game at the time. The oldest is poised, and concentrated; the youngest is standing, waiting for her turn; the third girl is crouching, turned away, picking up a ring that has somehow found its way under the nearby easel.
The colours are warm and glowing. The girls, in their light dresses, with light glowing on their hair, stand out from their surroundings, framed against a dark wall. The peg they toss their rings toward echoes the lighter tones of their skin and clothing, and the oldest girl’s concentration on it directs our eyes to it as well. The three look unposed, the scene informal. The brush work looks loose, impressionistic.
But achieving that look was neither accidental nor easy. It took a mastery of technique plus a strong sense of composition and an understanding of light. It also took an openness to the ideas of others – some of the ideas for the way he composed his scene may have come from Velazquez’s Las Meninas, a painting he had seen and copied when he was touring and working in Europe.
My eye is caught by the beauty of the painting, but I also find myself fascinated by the way it brings together so many different aspects of Chase’s life. There is his skill – Chase was an accomplished artist, master of many media. There was his travel – he was someone with a preference for living life large – and his strong interest in learning and teaching. There was his family – the children pictured here were part of the family of eight he raised with his wife, Alice Gerson.
All of these things came together in the creation of this warm, touching scene.