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Guide to the Ronald G. Pisano project records for the William Merritt Chase catalogue raisonné, 1896-2011

Collection Overview


Kellen Design Archives

Collection Identifier



Pisano, Ronald G.


Ronald G. Pisano project records for the William Merritt Chase catalogue raisonné, 1896-2011, (Bulk, 1975-2007)


12 linear ft: 11 records cartons plus 2 DVD boxes


These records consist of files compiled and produced during the more than thirty years of research and writing that culminated in the publication of the Complete Catalogue of Known and Documented Work by William Merritt Chase (1849–1916), published in four volumes by Yale University Press between 2006 and 2010. The project was begun by Ronald G. Pisano (1948-2000) and completed by D. Frederick Baker and Carolyn Lane after Pisano's death. Files include correspondence with auction houses, museums, galleries, libraries, archives, and individual owners of Chase work; authentication reports; photographs of Chase work; exhibition and auction records; news clippings and articles by and about Chase; and photographs and correspondence from Chase's lifetime (mostly obtained as photocopies from other institutions).

Preferred Citation note

[Identification of item], [date (if known)], Ronald G. Pisano project records for the William Merritt Chase catalogue raisonné, KA.0010, box __, folder __, New School Archives and Special Collections, The New School, New York, New York.

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History of the Project and Biographical Note


The catalogue raisonné project was initiated and core research was conducted by Ronald G. Pisano, a scholar of early American art and leading expert on the art of William Merritt Chase. After Pisano's death at the age of 51 in 2000, his longtime partner, D. Frederick Baker, formed the Pisano/Chase Catalogue Raisonné Project to complete what Pisano had begun. American art scholar Carolyn K. Lane worked alongside Baker to complete Pisano's research and to prepare the catalogue for publication.

History of the Project

Ronald G. Pisano began his research William Merritt Chase in 1972 while in graduate school at the University of Delaware, embarking on what would become a lifelong project to document the artist and his artwork. While it is an arduous task to produce a catalogue raisonné of any prolific artist, creating the Chase catalogue proved especially challenging. The artist left behind few personal records or lists of his paintings. There was no logbook of portrait sitters, no running lists of exhibited, sold, or auctioned work, no family scrapbook of clippings.

With these obstacles, Pisano set about gradually building a storehouse of information about Chase and his work. He used a 1949 checklist of known works by Chase published by Wilbur Peat for the Centennial Exhibition at the John Herron Art Museum in Indiana, but found that the list was incomplete and that many works listed there were not authentic Chases. So, Pisano began compiling exhibition catalogs and auction records, gathered articles and exhibition reviews, wrote to galleries, archives, museums, and other institutions, and tracked down Chase descendents. He collected letters to Chase family members that mentioned various paintings, and obtained a family photograph album that included images of Chase's work. To make matters more difficult, Chase had often used the same title for more than one work, so even compiling a solid exhibition history for some works proved a challenge. Eventually, Pisano was able to construct a list of Chase works held by museums and other institutions around the world, and to add to it many works in private collections, as well. One breakthrough occurred when Chase's grandson, Jackson Chase Storm, introduced Pisano to a trove of five hundred photographs of Chase paintings. Many of these photos had notations on the back, helping to identify portrait sitters.

A factor further complicating the catalogue project was the proliferation of fakes and forgeries that appeared after Chase's death. Chase was a well-regarded teacher, and many of his students emulated his style. False Chase signatures were sometimes added to these student works (presumably without the students' knowledge). These would then appear on the market, and remained in circulation thereafter. Over the course of his research, Pisano amassed an enormous image file of fakes and forgeries; these formed an invaluable resource against which the researchers could check works purported to be by the artist. (The files of fakes and forgeries of Chase works have been retained by the estate of Ronald G. Pisano.)

For each work he identified, Pisano created an object entry file that included a completed worksheet listing all known details about the work: title, alternate titles, date, media, dimensions, signature location, current owner, and subject matter. If the work was figurative, the form would indicate whether or not the subject was a family member, and if not, would identify the sitter, exhibitions and auctions in which the work had appeared, and references. Correspondence regarding a work, if there was any, was also included in the object file. Many entry files also included authentication reports that Pisano prepared for owners, galleries, and auction houses. In some cases, however, an object entry file would include only a minimal amount of information--a photocopy of a glancing reference to a Chase work in an exhibition review, or an illustration of a work from a periodical or book. Nothing else could be found out.

Pisano's untimely death in 2000 prevented him from achieving his goal of publishing the definitive catalogue on Chase, a compendium he hoped would serve as a fundamental resource for Chase researchers. After Pisano's death, however, a foundation was established by D. Frederick Baker--Pisano's companion of thirty years--and other supporters, with the foremost aim of completing the catalogue he had labored on. Digging into Pisano's files, Baker and American art historian Carolyn K. Lane organized and verified Pisano's research, added detail and expanded the search for owners. Pisano's authentication reports proved extremely useful. And, with the advent of the Internet, Baker and Lane were able to locate previously unidentified works, and to add to Pisano's lists of exhibitions, auctions, and references. The New York Times archives, the  Brooklyn Daily Eagle archives, genealogical sites, and, most importantly, art historian William Gerdts's research library, served as valuable resources. The genealogical sites in several instances enabled the researchers to track down descendents of portrait sitters. One example of this was the Earle family, who had commissioned Chase to paint a number of portraits of family members. Baker and Lane located extended family who still had portraits by Chase hanging in their homes that had heretofore been unknown or unidentified. All of the information compiled onto the worksheets, once verified, was eventually published in the catalogue.

In the case of some works, however, the researchers were unable to add any new information to what Pisano had found. There were works about which little more was found than a work's title from an exhibition record. But Baker and Lane's goal was always to publish a catalogue raisonné that was as complete as possible, recognizing that there would be inevitable errors and omissions. It remains their hope that researchers will continue to piece together details that will further illuminate the life and work of William Merritt Chase.

With the completion of the fourth and final volume of the catalogue, the research files thus amassed and created over three decades were brought to the Kellen Design Archives to form this collection.

Ronald G. Pisano

Ronald G. Pisano was a curator, art historian, collector, and authority on William Merritt Chase. Born in New York City and raised in Huntington, New York, Pisano graduated cum laude from Adelphi University, and went on to pursue graduate studies at the University of Delaware, where he wrote his dissertation on Chase's students. The dissertation was published in 1973 in the catalog for an exhibition Pisano organized for the Heckscher Museum of Art and the Parrish Art Museum, both located on Long Island in New York. From 1973 to 1977, Pisano served as curator of American art at the Heckscher, and from 1978 to 1982 he directed the Parrish, where he organized the exhibition, ''William Merritt Chase: In the Company of Friends." In 1979, Pisano was responsible for establishing the William Merritt Chase Archives at the Parrish. After leaving the Parrish, Pisano continued his Chase scholarship as an independent curator and appraiser, organizing exhibitions at the Parrish, the Art Students League, the Heckscher, and the Long Island Museum of American Art, History and Carriages.

Ronald G. Pisano died of esophageal cancer in 2000, at the age of 51.



The history of the project was described in detail to the Kellen Design Archives archivists by Carolyn K. Lane.

Roberta Smith, "Ronald G. Pisano, 51, Collector And Expert on Long Island's Art," New York Times, December 31, 2000, http://www.nytimes.com/2000/12/31/nyregion/ronald-g-pisano-51-collector-and-expert-on-long-island-s-art.html


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Scope and Content of Collection

The files in this collection represent several layers of research and writing conducted over a period of about thirty years, work that culminated in the publication of the Complete Catalogue of Known and Documented Work by William Merritt Chase (1849–1916), published in four volumes by Yale University Press between 2006 and 2010. Begun by Ronald G. Pisano (1948-2000), and brought to completion by D. Frederick Baker and Carolyn Lane after Pisano's death, the files include worksheets, correspondence with auction houses, museums, galleries, libraries, archives, and individual owners of Chase work; authentication reports; photographs of Chase work; exhibition and auction records; news clippings and articles by and about Chase; and photographs and correspondence from Chase's lifetime (largely obtained as photocopies from other institutions). The collection as a whole reflects the massive amount of work done by the researchers to track down, identify, describe, and authenticate works by Chase. During the course of their work, the researchers amassed an extensive group of records regarding fakes and forgeries of Chase works. These files have been retained by the estate of Ronald G. Pisano.

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Organization and Arrangement

Organized in six series.

  1. Object entry files: In order of catalogue entry number
  2. Research files by volume: Alphabetical by subject
  3. General research files: Alphabetical by subject
  4. Clippings and articles: Chronological by publication date
  5. Exhibition catalogs and records: Alphabetical by subject
  6. Digital media: By catalogue volume

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Kellen Design Archives - March 12, 2012

66 5th Ave./
lobby level
New York, NY, 10011

Preferred Citation note

[Identification of item], [date (if known)], Ronald G. Pisano project records for the William Merritt Chase catalogue raisonné, KA.0010, box __, folder __, New School Archives and Special Collections, The New School, New York, New York.

Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open for research use. Please contact archivist@newschool.edu for appointment.

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives. Please contact: archivist@newschool.edu.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Fred Baker in 2002.

External Support

The processing of this collection benefited greatly from the participation of Carolyn K. Lane, co-author of the Catalogue Raisonné. Lane's work with the New School Archives was made possible by a gift from the Pisano/Chase Catalogue Raisonné Project.

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Related Materials

William Merritt Chase's artwork is in the collections of museums worldwide. Institutions that hold archival materials related to William Merritt Chase include the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art, Washington, D.C., and the Parrish Museum, Southampton, New York. The latter includes over a thousand photographs relating to Chase's life and work, in particular family photographs of summers spent on the East End of Long Island. The Brooklyn Museum and the Morgan Library and Museum in New York each hold sketchbooks by Chase.

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Keywords for Searching Related Subjects


  • Authentication.


  • Catalogues raisonnés.
  • Clippings files.
  • Exhibition catalogs.
  • Exhibition records.

Personal Name(s)

  • Baker, D. Frederick
  • Chase, William Merritt, 1849-1916
  • Lane, Carolyn K., 1967-


  • Art collections.
  • Fine arts.

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Collection Inventory

Series I. Object entry files 

This series consists of files representing research on individual works listed in the Catalogue Raisonée. The folders are ordered sequentially by catalogue entry number, beginning with Volume 1 and continuing through Volume 4. Note that not every work shown in the catalogue is represented here, and that often files yield very little information beyond what is already available in the published catalogue. Many of the files include prints, slides, and other types of transparencies of varying degrees of quality. Some of these images served as the source for the images published in the catalogue. DVDs holding digital images of the works are found in the Digital media series. Other materials found here may include correspondence with museums, galleries, archives, and individuals about a work's physical features and provenance; original catalogue entry worksheets completed in the early years of the project; authenticity reports commissioned by owners, auction houses, galleries, and museums; and photocopies of archival and other materials that refer to physical aspects of the work, provide biographical information about its subject, or furnish information about Chase during the period when he created the work. A list of works not represented in this series may be obtained from the Kellen Design Archives.

Carton Entry_No.
Volume 1: Paintings in Pastels, Monotypes, Painted Tiles and Ceramic Plates, Watercolors, and Prints 
1 Op.2-57
1 W.1-37
1 Pr.1-10
1 M.2-34
1 P.2-105
1 T.1-8
Volume 2: Portraits in Oil 
1 OP.2--OP.57
2 OP.58--OP.265
3 OP.266--OP.480
4 OP.481--OP.607
Volume 3: Landscapes in Oil 
4 L.1--L.100
5 L.102--L.251
6 L.252--L.338
Volume 4: Still Lifes, Interiors, Figures, Copies of Old Masters, and Drawings 
6 SL.1--SL.82
7 SL.83-SL.179; I.1-I.56; F.1-F.4
8 F.5--D.90

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Series II. Research files by volume, and addenda 

These files largely consist of material created and compiled by the author/researchers who brought the project to publication after Pisano's death. Some of the material here was culled from Pisano's earlier research records. Also included is correspondence between researchers, and with editors at Yale University Press.

Box Folder

Volume 1: Paintings in Pastels, Monotypes, Painted Tiles and Ceramic Plates, Watercolors, and Prints 

Carton Folder
General, 1983-1984, 2001-2006 

(includes photocopies of archival material, 1883-1890)

8 1
Manuscript draft with notes, 2005 
8 2
Monotypes, 1979-2003 

(includes photocopies of archival material, 1881, 1896)

8 3
Pastels, 1983-1999 

(inludes photocopies of archival material, 1884-1890)

8 4

Volume 2: Portraits in Oil 

Carton Folder
General, 1975, 1996-2006 

(includes photocopies of archival material, 1913, after 1917, 1949)

8 5-6
Photographs: Male portraits (probably from Chase family collection), undated 

These oversized photographs of male portraits probably come from a scrapbook kept by the Chase family. Standard sized photographs from the family's collection will be found in individual Object Entry files.

k_13 4

Volume 3: Landscapes in Oil 

Carton Folder
General, undated 
8 7
Chronology, 2007, undated 
8 8

Volume 4: Still Lifes, Interiors, Figures, Copies of Old Masters, and Drawings 

Carton Folder
General, 1998, 2006-2010 
8 9
Drawings: General, 1982-2005 
8 18
Drawings not represented in Catalogue Raisonné, 1975-2006, undated 

(includes photocopies of archival material, circa 1880s-1915)

8 19-20
Errata: OP.565 and OP.593 

The Errata section of Volume 4 lists corrections to be made to entries to future editions of the first three volumes of the catalogue.

8 21
Still lifes: General, 1975, 2006-2007 

Includes a note from John Updike declining Baker's request for Updike to write the Foreword for Volume 4; and photocopies of archival material, 1913-1964)

8 22
Still lifes: Fakes and questionable works, 1975-1995, 2007 

(includes photocopies of archival material, 1963-1966)

8 23
Still life: Photograph: SL.74 (probably from Chase family collection) 
k_13 5
Addenda published in volumes, and post-publication 
Addenda for volumes 1-3 (published in vol 4): LA.341-LA.342 

The Addendum section of Volume 4 lists Chase works to be included in future editions of the first three volumes of the Catalogue. Records related to these updates are found here.

8 10-11
Addenda for volumes 1-3 (published in vol 4): OPA.602-OPA.607 
8 12-17

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Series III. General research files 

Consists of records compiled by the researchers in the course of investigating Chase's life and work, comprising the raw material from which the published catalogue was fashioned. Most of the archival materials here are in the form of photocopies obtained from the archives of museums and other institutions, including the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art, the Cororan Gallery, the Parrish Art Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as from the scrapbooks and collections of individuals who descended from or were associated with contemporaries of Chase. The photo album and some of the other original archival material present in this collection were given to Ronald Pisano and D. Frederick Baker by Chase's estate, through Chase's grandson, Jackson Chase Storm.

Carton Folder
Art Amateur references and notes, undated 
9 1
Auction records (1887-1972), 1996 
9 2
Book excerpts (photocopies), 1894-1930, undated 
9 3
Chase and contemporaries: Photographs, 1897, 1907, before 1916 
9 4
Chase estate auction advertisement (photocopy), after 1916 
9 5
Chase family history, 1974-2004, undated 

(includes photocopies of archival material, 1910-1940, 1966)

9 6
Chase family photograph album, circa 1890s (original) 

The following statement was provided by D. Frederick Baker in March, 2010:

This is the photograph album of Helen Chase (Storm) daughter of William Merritt Chase and his wife Alice, the frontispiece photograph being that of Helen Chase as a young girl, and end page a photograph of her several years later. Alice prepared photograph albums for each of her children, which included many photos of their life together in Shinnecock Hills, Long Island. Of special importance are the many photographs of paintings by Chase. Helen's album also includes a few photographs of friends and luminaries; especially interesting is the inscribed photograph to "Mr. Chase" by the French cabaret singer and actress Yvette (Guilbert) -- best remembered today from her portrait painted by Toulouse-Lautrec. There are a few photographs that were apparently cut out of the album -- according to Helen's son, Jackson Storm Chase, Helen cut out photographs of herself that she decided were not particularly flattering.


9 7-10
Chase letters: Corcoran Gallery--Incoming and outgoing (photocopies and transcriptions), 1908-1916 
9 11
Chase letters: Incoming, and other materials, 1996 

(includes photocopies of archival material, 1838-1916)

9 12
Chase letters: Outgoing and incoming, 1979-1999 

(includes photocopies of archival material, 1873-1906)

9 13
Chase letters: Outgoing, and label (original), 1914-1915, before 1916 
9 14
Chase sketchbook (slides), undated 

These slides are probably all images from a sketchbook in the Morgan Library's Department of Drawings and Prints. They are hand-coded with "RGP" numbers, employing an earlier numbering system devised by Pisano that do not match the object entry numbers in the published catalogue.

9 15
Chase teaching and school: Articles and advertisements (photocopies), 1896-1913 
9 16
Chase teaching, students, and school, 1973, 1987-2000 

Includes Pisano's correspondence with descendents and researchers about various Chase students, and two catalogs for exhibits of work by female students of Chase.

9 17
Chronology (notes), 1976, undated 
9 18
Computerized catalogue project 

Includes documentation related to a project undertaken by Pisano in the late 1970s to create a "computerized catalogue" of Chase's works. In an article presenting the project, Pisano outlines the process by which each of Chase's documented works would be described by discrete classifications that would include title, alternate titles, medium, subject, date, stylistic attributes, and other details. Pisano felt that this descriptive format would, among other uses, serve as a valuable tool in the identification of fakes and forgeries--of which there are many, in Chase's case. The computerized catalogue would also provide a faster route to identify duplicate entries for paintings known by more than one title (also a major issue with Chase's work). Pisano worked with a team of art historians, curators, and a museum data services specialist to design the form and coding system for assigning classifications and data content. Pisano was invited to present the project at the "First International Conference on Automatic Processing of Art History Data and Documents" in Pisa, Italy, September, 1978. The file includes a poster for the conference, correspondence with conference coordinators and Pisano's collaborators on the project, and slides used to accompany his presentation.

9 19
General, 1977-1978 
9 19
Data output, 1979 
9 20-21
Entry worksheets, probably late 1970s 

Includes a small sampling of the coded data entry forms Pisano created for the project (others appear scattered throughout the Object entry files. The "RGP" numbers represent Pisano's original system for cataloguing Chase's work, and do not match the object entry numbers published in the catalogue.

k_13 6
Corcoran Gallery accession sheets for Chase works, 1967-1970 
9 22
Cox, George Collins (photographer), 1961-1964, 1998 
9 23
Future addenda and errata, 1966, 1992-2012 
9 24
Pisano, Ronald: Correspondence 

While these files constitute a discrete group of Pisano's correspondence, his correspondence, notes, and an abundance of evidence of his work on this project are found throughout the collection.

General, 1974-2000 
9 25-26
Authentication of Chase works, 1983-1994 

The original title of this file was: Authentication in Progress/Old. Indeed, other Pisano correspondence and reports regarding authentication are to be found elsewhere in this collection, especially in the object entry files.

9 27
Libraries, 1974-1978 
9 28
Public collections with holdings of Chase works, 1974-2005 
9 29
Unpublished reminiscences of and essays on Chase, 1949, undated 
9 30
Works by other artists in Chase's collection, 1984-2004, 2010 
9 31

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Series IV. Clippings and articles 

These materials, arranged chronologically by publication date, consist primarily of photocopies of clippings from newspapers, magazines and journals, obtained by the researchers from archives, museums, and other repositories, as well as from individual correspondents. The researchers kept these in binders for easy reference.

Carton Folder
9 32
9 33
9 34
9 35
9 36
9 37
9 38
9 39
9 40
9 41
9 42
9 43
9 44
9 45
10 1
10 2
1950 and after 
10 3
Truth magazine (section of original issue) (Jul 1900, No. 7) 
k_13 7

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Series V. Exhibition catalogs and records 

Carton Folder
General records, 1996-2005 

Consists of a draft chronological listing of Chase exhibits--a finalized version appears in Volume 1. Also includes a floppy disk, presumably containing a backup copy of this list. Includes photocopies of archival material, 1871-1948.

10 4
Catalogs (original), 1917-1955 
10 5-6
Installation images (photocopies), 1910, 1917 
10 7
Installation images (slides): Knoedler and Company Benefit Exhibition for Parrish Art Museum, 1976 
10 8
Lifetime (photocopies from catalogs, correspondence, listings and notes related to exhibitions that occurred during Chase's lifetime), before 1916 
10 9-12
Miscellaneous shows with Chase listings (photocopies from group shows and those that Chase participated in as jury member or in another capacity), 1880-1992, undated 
10 13-14
Posthumous (photocopies from catalogs, reviews, notes and correspondence related to exhibitions that occurred after Chase died), after 1916 
10 15
Proposed retrospective, 1980-1982 

Consists of Project Management Guidelines prepared by the Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, for a 1983-1984 retrospective to be jointly funded and organized by the Henry Art Gallery and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and guest curated by Ronald Pisano. Also included is correspondence with other institutions about taking part in the exhibition, and Pisano's author agreement for the exhibition publication.

10 16-18
Proposed retrospective, 2001-2002 
10 19
Proposed Van Gogh Museum show, 1993-2000 
10 20
Reviews of shows of the "Ten American Painters" (photocopies), 1898-1917 
10 21-23

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Series VI. Digital media 

These DVDs consist of image files--primarily of Chase works--created and collected for use in the catalogue raisonné. About half to two thirds were created by Ed Watkins Photography. Full photography credits are found in Volume 4.

Carton Folder
Thumbnail printouts, 2005-2008 
10 24-27
Volumes 1-4: Digital image files (DVDs), 2005-2008 

Image files are largely in TIF and JPEG format.

Two floppy disks separated from General Research files, Auction records (1887-1973), 1996 [box 9.2] 

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Collection Guide Last Updated: 02/28/2017

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