William Merritt Chase was born in rural Williamsburg, Indiana, on November 1, 1849. The Chase family later moved to Saint Louis, where the young painter gained support from local patrons for European study. In 1872 he entered the Royal Academy in Munich.
Chase lived in Europe for almost seven years yet remained involved with the American art world. He was a founder of the American Society of Painters in Pastel and a principal force at the Shinnecock Summer School of Art on Long Island. He taught at the Brooklyn Art Association, at the Chase School of Art (later the New York School of Art), and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
Chased worked in all media. He was most fluent in oil painting and pastel, but also created watercolor paintings and etchings. He is perhaps best known for his portraits, his sitters including some of the most important men and women of his time in addition to his own family.
Chase’s interest in aesthetic innovations in perspective can be seen in the composition of this painting. Dorothy’s placement deep within the composition is unusual and effective. Also the grain of the floor is used as a device to draw the viewer’s eyes in her direction. Behind Dorothy, the artist chose to include a Japanese screen. Artists during the early 1900’s held a strong appreciation from the subtleties of Japanese aesthetics, which were seen as a sign of refinement. The inclusion of this screen is a visual allusion to the concepts of oriental simplicity.