In 1891, William Merritt Chase became director of a new summer art school on Long Island’s rural eastern tip. There he found an ideal setting for painting outdoors, creating some of the freshest, most vivid landscapes of his career. Surrounded by ocean, the area offered countless opportunities to record the changing effects of light.
He executed many paintings from his porch, which provided sweeping views of the bays and inlets. The artist's family is often present in these works. Idle Hours shows Chase’s wife in a red bonnet with two of her daughters and possibly his sister-in-law. The group enjoys a perfect day of sunshine and sea breeze while indulging in the idyllic pastime of reading outdoors.