Lady in Black, 1888
William Merritt Chase (American, 1849–1916)
Oil on canvas; 74 1/4 x 36 5/16 in. (188.6 x 92.2 cm)
Gift of William Merritt Chase, 1891 (91.11)
Marietta Benedict Cotton (1868–1947) studied with Chase and became a successful society portraitist in New York and London. Chase later recalled: "One morning, a young lady came into my Tenth Street studio. . . . She came as a pupil but the moment she appeared before me I saw her only as a splendid model. . . . Such a model is a treasure-find. It is the personality that inspires, and which you depict on canvas." An unabashed eclectic, Chase echoed Whistler's devotion to monochromatic portraits and quoted the table at the left from Sargent's Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau) (16.53). Like many of Chase's portraits, this one transcends individual characterization and functions as an aesthetic statement about the formal problems of composition, design, and color.