William Merritt Chase Found Camaraderie Among the Shinnecock

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William Merritt Chase first came to Southampton in 1891 as the founding director of the Shinnecock Hills Summer School of Art, and he and his family spent summers in Shinnecock for the next 25 years.

In photographs taken with a Kodak box camera, the artist’s wife, Alice, began to record these summers, capturing a largely unknown history in blue-toned cyanotype, revealing the bonds that grew among Chase, other “summer colonists” and the people of the Shinnecock Reservation.

This cross-section of relationships will be the topic of conversation between Alicia G. Longwell, the Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Chief Curator at the Parrish Art Museum, and Shinnecock historian David Bunn Martine on Friday, January 25, at 6 p.m. — drawing from the exhibition, “William Merritt Chase: The Shinnecock Years,” currently on view at the Water Mill museum.

“This exhibition has given us a wonderful opportunity to shed light on a history that has been little considered in the story of William Merritt Chase’s years in the Shinnecock Hills,” Longwell said in a press release.

The exhibition presents six paintings, dating from 1894 to 1900, of iconic scenes from the area, and detailed wall texts illustrated with archival images, from both the Parrish’s William Merritt Chase Archives and from Martine’s family collection, depicting the confluence of the two communities.

Over the years, the Chase family and the community relied on their Shinnecock neighbors for everything from food to domestic support. Many of the women on the Reservation were skilled seamstresses and laundresses and, in their abundant market gardens, the Shinnecock grew produce to sell to the summer community — along with eggs, broiler chickens and Muscovy ducks.

Martine remembers his grandmother Alice Martinez saying, “We canned a lot of vegetables. And Father [Charles Bunn, David Bunn Martine’s great-grandfather] used to store cabbage in the basement in sand,” a press release said.

The Shinnecock were also a part of the summer colonists’ leisure activities. Men from the Reservation built the Shinnecock Hills golf course, as depicted in an image dated around 1900. Others, well known for hunting and fishing skill, were sought-after guides. This association is revealed in a copy of Bunn’s advertisement for “Instruction of Young Boys in Handling Firearms,” as well as Chase’s painting “The Pot Hunter,” and the hunting scene “Captain Harlow’s Lot, Southampton” by his student Reynolds Beal.

“These relationships had a personal impact on the Chase family,” the release said. In a tribute to their neighbors, the Chases gave their fourth daughter Hazel, born in Southampton, the middle name “Neamaug” — a Shinnecock word meaning “between the waters.” Students from the Shinnecock Hills Summer School of Art also, for a fee, were permitted to set up their easels on the pristine Reservation lands.

Admission is $12 and free for members, children and students. For more information, call (631) 283-2118 or visit parrishart.org.

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