In the last couple years of the nineteenth century, the landscape painters William Lathrop (1859-1938) and Edward Redfield (1869-1965) settled near New Hope, Pennsylvania. While artists had called Bucks County home since the 1700s, the arrival of these two painters, who had already achieved national recognition for their work, firmly established New Hope as an important center for visual art.
Many artists, later known as Pennsylvania Impressionists, relocated to the New Hope area to study with Lathrop and Redfield, escape the urban centers of Philadelphia and New York, and paint the bucolic landscape. These painters emulated the French Impressionists in their efforts to depict contemporary life and local scenes with bright palettes, gestural brushwork, and close attention to qualities of light and atmosphere. By the early twentieth century, however, Impressionism was no longer the revolutionary style that shocked the French art world. It was instead taught at art academies in New York and Philadelphia and praised by critics. In 1915, several Bucks County artists won important medals at the prestigious Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, and Edward Redfield was honored with an entire room devoted to his canvases. The artist and critic Guy Pène du Bois (1884-1958) wrote, “The Pennsylvania School of landscape painters, whose leader is Edward W. Redfield, is our first truly national expression.” Perceived as strong, rugged, and closely tied to the national landscape, the Pennsylvania Impressionists appealed to a sense of American identity.
This exhibition features select works by artists affiliated with the New Hope School of painters, including Rae Sloan Bredin (1880-1933), Morgan Colt (1876-1926), Fern Coppedge (1883-1951), John Folinsbee (1892-1972), Daniel Garber (1880-1958), William Lathrop, Harry Leith-Ross (1886-1973), M. Elizabeth Price (1877-1965), Edward Redfield, Charles Rosen (1878-1950), Henry Snell (1858-1943), Robert Spencer (1879-1931), and George Sotter (1879-1953). Thanks to a transformative gift of 59 paintings from Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest in 1999, the Michener is considered to have one of the finest collections of Pennsylvania Impressionist art in public or private hands. The paintings on display tell the story of the New Hope colony through their vigorous depiction of the grandeur and beauty of the North American landscape. One of the highlights of the gallery is a spectacular 22-foot mural by Daniel Garber, titled A Wooded Watershed. Painted for the Sesquicentennial Exposition of 1926 held in Philadelphia, this lunette-shaped mural was rediscovered in 1994 in an auditorium at the Mont Alto campus of The Pennsylvania State University. The Michener cleaned and restored the mural to its current condition.