The Bucks County region’s visual arts tradition was influenced early on by its Quaker inhabitants who not only appropriated the rural landscape as a subject worthy of deliberation but celebrated country life as beneficial for the body, spirit, and the mind. When an economic depression disrupted the American economy in the 1890s, urban artists and craftsmen like painter Edward W. Redfield found refuge in the Bucks County countryside, attracted by the beauty of the landscape and the idea that they could make a living from the land and be free to work creatively. By the opening decade of the twentieth century, a lively art colony, the New Hope school of painters also known as the Pennsylvania Impressionists, began to make Bucks County a home for a nationally recognized style of landscape painting.
The Garber Mural
Putman | Smith Gallery
The spectacular 22-foot mural by Daniel Garber, A Wooded Watershed, was painted for the Sesquicentennial Exposition of 1926 held in Philadelphia. The lunette-shaped mural was rescued from obscurity in 1994 from an auditorium at the State Forest School at Mont Alto (now a branch of Pennsylvania State University).
The Lenfest Exhibition of Pennsylvania Impressionism
The exhibition consists of world-class examples of works by the beloved painters whose names have become synonymous with Bucks County art. These paintings vigorously depict the grandeur and rustic beauty of the Bucks County landscape and are considered the finest collection of Pennsylvania Impressionist art in public or private hands. Drawn largely from the collection given by Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest, this permanent exhibition tells the story of the renowned Impressionist art colony centered in New Hope in the early 20th century.
In 1999, Marguerite and H. F. “Gerry” Lenfest placed 59 paintings in trust to the Michener Art Museum. Six years later, their promised gift was converted to an outright gift, an act that transformed the museum into an exhibition and study center of Pennsylvania Impressionism. This gift, which included such noteworthy examples of the New Hope School as William Langson Lathrop’s Chilmark Moor, Martha’s Vineyard (1930), Edward W. Redfield’s The Trout Brook (ca. 1916), Daniel Garber’s Springtime in the Village (1917), George Sotter’s Brace’s Cove (n.d) and The Windybush Valley (1939), Robert Spencer’s A Gray Day (1912), and Charles Rosen’s Opalescent Morning (ca. 1909), supported the museum’s collecting, research, and educational mission at the most basic levels and placed the museum in a position to build its core collection into one of national significance.