Arts Everyday Living: An Impressionist Room of Summer Light & Color–A Pillow Paradise

A Friendly Call, 1895, oil on canvas, Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.


A Friendly Call 

Artist: William Merritt Chase (1849-1916)


Two women are engaged in a conversation. Are they merely acquaintances or close friends? Have they just started or are they about to leave?

But who would ever want to depart from this beautiful room, decorated by the creativity and imagination of the artist? Except, perhaps to enjoy the glory of a perfect summer morning just beyond the door.

William Merritt Chase was one of the leading American Impressionists, known for his representations of domestic and outdoor scenes, peopled often by his own family, especially his wife and daughters. Although  born in Indiana, he resided mainly in New York City and outlying areas such as Long Island. In fact, A Friendly Call was painted in the studio of his home near Southampton, Long Island, where he also taught art classes during the summer. The woman in the striped yellow gown is actually the artist’s wife, Alice.  We do not know the name of her visitor.

Here are a few questions you might consider about the elements of style of this work of art:


Chase, like his fellow Impressionists, was a master of both rich and diverse color, particularly evident in A Friendly Call. For instance, how many different colors can you discover in this painting? Does any color attract your eye? The pure white of the visiting woman’s flowing dress? Or the vivid pinks of the pillows? How about the colors of the other pillows? The navy blue and orange pillow? Or the dark green pillow on your right? Notice the unforgettable red tassel of the pink pillow in the chair in the foreground.

And how would you describe the color of the gown of the  artist’s wife? Is it a soft yellow? Or close to beige? Or cream? Do you also notice the deep black of her collar and sash? What about the white and lavender tones of the flowers on the other woman’s hat?

Also look closely at the elegant mirror just behind the artist’s wife, reflecting another part of the room. Do you see the warm orange of the curtain in the other part of the room? And the white frames of the pictures hanging on the walls?


What about the light? Does it seem to fill the entire room? Is it bright? Soft? In between? Do you see the difference in the quality of the light in the mirror?


How about the texture of the materials and surfaces of the painting? Can you almost feel the material of the women’s gowns? For example, how would the white dress of the visiting woman feel? Silky? Or perhaps even starchy? Can you imagine the rustle of her skirt when she walked? How about her gloves? Do you see how perfectly they are fitted? Would they be made out of some fine leather? Would it feel soft to the touch?

What about the pillows? Would they feel smooth and satiny?


Do the forms appear three dimensional? Do the women stand out from the rest of the space of the painting? And the objects and furniture in the painting? Notice the woman’s parasol and the small pillow on the floor just before her. Are they three dimensional? Can you determine what Alice is holding on her lap? Is it a hat? Or a fan?

How about the chair in the foreground? And the pillow that is sitting in it? Does the pillow almost seem to be projecting out of the space of the painting?


What is your feeling of space? Is the space of the painting deep? Does your eye easily travel back into the room? Or is the space rather shallow, stopped by the couch and the works of art on the wall? Does the artist expand your feeling of space by inserting the mirror? Do you agree or disagree?




In the public domain, courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The National Gallery of Art does not endorse or approve use of the above image or any of the material on this website. Nor has the National Gallery of Art participated in any projects utilizing the said image.

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