The Johnson Collection Gallery

The Kindred Spirit:

William Merritt Chase and His Southern Students


Over one thousand art students passed through the classrooms of William Merritt Chase (1849–1916), during his illustrious teaching career. The artists showcased in this presentation — Josephine Sibley Couper, Elliott Daingerfield, Ella Hergesheimer, Rockwell Kent, Margaret Law, Frank London, Clara Weaver Parrish, Paul Sawyier, and Will Henry Stevens, among others — studied under Chase at the turn of the twentieth century, adopting his methods to various degrees before ultimately finding their own creative vocabularies.

After completing his education in Europe in 1878, Chase returned to the United States and promptly joined the faculty of the Art Students League in New York. Over the next thirty years, Chase was an instructor and director at several esteemed art academies, and even founded an eponymous school. Teaching became an integral and fulfilling aspect of Chase’s professional life. “Association with my pupils has kept me young in my work,” he claimed, and “criticism of their work has kept my own point of view clear.”

The Kindred Spirit explores how Chase’s influential style and vision were expanded and transformed in the hands of Southern painters. Many implemented techniques similar to Chase’s, recording everyday scenes and landscapes in an Impressionist manner, while others built on that foundation by experimenting with different modes of modernism. Several went on to establish regional art schools, thereby ensuring that Chase’s legacy, as well as their own, would live on in the next generation of Southern artists.

This exhibition is the curatorial capstone for TJC’s 2018 Graduate Fellow, Dr. Kelsey Malone. A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Malone received her PhD from the University of Missouri and is now Assistant Professor of Art History at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.

Beginning in 2019, we’ve expanded the hours at TJC Gallery: WEDNESDAY through FRIDAY, 12pm to 4pm, FIRST SATURDAY of the month, 12pm to 4pm, THIRD THURSDAY, ArtWalk, 5pm to 8pm.

Hailed by The Magazine Antiques with staging a “quiet art historical revolution” and expanding “the meaning of regional,” the Johnson Collection offers an extensive survey of artistic activity in the American South from the late eighteenth century to the present day. In May 2016, the collection received the Governor’s Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award for the Arts, South Carolina’s highest honor in the field. Located at 154 West Main Street in the heart of Spartanburg’s downtown, TJC Gallery features rotating selections from the collection’s holdings. These curated exhibitions are open to the public without charge on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 12pm to 4pm as well as the first Saturday of the month from 12pm to 4pm. In addition, TJC Gallery is pleased to participate in the city’s ArtWalk series, held on the third Thursday of each month from 5pm to 8pm.