Chase was born in Williamsburg (later Ninevah), Indiana, in 1849, the oldest of six children. When he was twelve, the family moved to Indianapolis. His father hoped that he would follow him into the women's shoe business, but Chase, who said "the desire to draw was born in me," resisted his father's commercial ambitions for his own artistic ones. In 1867 he began his training with Barton S. Hays, followed two years later with study at the National Academy of Design in New York under Lemuel P. Wilmarth.
In 1871 Chase moved to Saint Louis, where he painted still-lifes professionally. He attracted the attention of local patrons, who, in the autumn of 1872, offered to send him abroad. At the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, where he received his most decisive training, Chase was one of the many Americans, including Frank Duveneck and later John Twachtman, studying there. After an extended visit to Venice with Duveneck and Twachtman in 1878, Chase returned to New York, where he began teaching at the Art Students League. He devoted much of his time and energy to teaching, not only at the League, but also the Brooklyn Art Association, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Shinnecock Summer School of Art, and the New York School of Art the last two of which he founded and was the most celebrated teacher of his time. As a leader of the insurgent younger painters who challenged the authority of the National Academy of Design, he was a founding member of the Society of American Artists and, in 1880, was elected its president. His large, sumptuously decorated studio in the Tenth Street Studio Building, which he took soon after his return to New York, was the most famous artist's studio in America and a virtual manifesto of his and his generation's artistic practices and beliefs, and of the dignity of the artist's calling.
In 1886 he married Alice Gerson, who was frequently his model, as were their many children. Chase painted a wide range of subjects, including figures, landscapes and cityscapes, studio interiors, still lifes, and, increasingly later in life, portraits, and he worked with equal brilliance in oil and pastel. Chase died in New York City in 1916.
|(undated) Florence oil on panel 16 x 20 cm|
|c1869 The Family Cow oil on canvas 51 x 41 cm|
|1875 'Keying Up' - The Court Jester oil on canvas 101 x 63 cm|
|c1875 The Leader oil on canvas 67 x 40 cm|
|c1880-90 Pink Azalea—Chinese Vase oil on wood 60 x 42 cm|
|c1880 Mrs Chase in Pink|
|c1881 In the Studio Corner oil on canvas|
|1882 In the Studio|
|1883 Garden of the Orphanage, Haarlem, Holland oil on canvas 170 x 201 cm|
|1883 Portrait of Miss Dora Wheeler|
|c1885-9 After the Shower oil on canvas 39 x 59 cm|
|c1885 Still Life, Cod ans Mackerel oil on canvas 64 x 76 cm|
|1886 Mrs. Chase in Prospect Park oil on panel 35 x 50 cm|
|1886 Portrait of James Rapelje Howard|
|c1886 Gray Day on the Bay oil on wood 24 x 34 cm|
|1887 Tompkins Park, Brooklyn oil on canvas 43 x 56 cm|
|c1887 A City Park|
|1888 Hide and Seek oil on canvas 71 x 91 cm|
|1888 Lady in Black oil on canvas 187 x 92 cm|
|1888 Study of Flesh Color and Gold pastel 46 x 33 cm|
|c1888 Marine oil on wood 23 x 31 cm|