Like Frank Duveneck, William Merritt Chase spent his formative years as an artist in Munich. There, his teachers fostered his enthusiasm for the Dutch and Spanish masters, whose dark palette and flashy brushwork he initially emulated. Upon returning from Germany in 1878, the Indiana native settled in New York, where he launched a career as a teacher. Chase’s studio, filled with "objets d’art," became a popular gathering spot for artists and literati as well as the subject of his most complex paintings. His works also included portraits, still lifes, and landscapes. By the late 1880s, Chase’s palette had lightened dramatically as he experimented with Impressionism. Although he rejected its basis in optical theory, he staunchly advocated painting outdoors to capture the vibrancy of contemporary life in the radiant light of sunny days.
In 1891 Chase opened a summer school for outdoor painting at Shinnecock Hills, near the village of Southampton on southeastern Long Island. With the possible exception of a class taught by John H. Twachtman, this was the first instruction in the United States devoted to outdoor painting. "Summer at Shinnecock Hills" is among the earliest of the artist’s signature portrayals of the region. With some variations, these works typically include women and children in sparkling white dresses accented with touches of pink or red, on the beach or nestled within the wind-swept grasses of the dunes. The clear vistas unobstructed by trees, the gently rolling contours of the terrain, and the delicate colors of the landscape provided Chase with a wealth of inspiration that was renewed each summer.