Pennsylvania Impressionism

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The Tow Path (c.1921) by William Langson Lathrop, Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. William L. Lathrop - The Tow Path - Google Art Project.jpg
The Tow Path (c.1921) by William Langson Lathrop, Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

Pennsylvania Impressionism was an American Impressionist movement of the first half of the 20th century that was centered in and around Bucks County, Pennsylvania, particularly the town of New Hope. The movement is sometimes referred to as the "New Hope School" or the "Pennsylvania School" of landscape painting.



Landscape painter William Langson Lathrop (1859-1938) moved to New Hope in 1898, where he founded a summer art school. The mill town was located along the Delaware River, about forty miles from Philadelphia and seventy miles from Manhattan. The area's rolling hills were spectacular, and the river, its tributaries, and the Delaware Canal were picturesque. The natural beauty attracted the artist Edward Redfield (1869-1965), who settled north of the town. Redfield painted nature in bold and vibrant colors, and was “the pioneer of the realistic painting of winter in America.” His thick layering distinguished him from his contemporaries, and he amassed more honors and awards than any other artist in the New Hope Colony. His style is distinguished by its color, light, and usual time of day when painting. The third major artist to settle in the area was Daniel Garber (1880-1958), who came to New Hope in 1907. Garber hated painting winter scenes and applied his paint lightly. An instructor at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, Garber played a huge part of the new colony. Garber made rain paintings popular which resulted in the outpour of a new group.

Artist colony

As more artists came to the colony, the artists formed art groups with different ideas. The two main groups were the Impressionists and the Modernists. Impressionists were painters who did not stay with the traditional pursuit of painting realistically, but instead explored the possibilities of paint and imagination. An important American Impressionist movement is the Pennsylvania Impressionism. The Pennsylvania Impressionist Movement inspired and influenced major artists such as Walter Schofield (1867-1944), George Sotter(1879-1953) and Henry Snell (1858-1943). William Lathrop purchased the Phillips Mill property to use as a venue to hold galleries and exhibitions. However, problems occurred in this venue. Modernist Lloyd Ney submitted a painting of the New Hope canal. Lathrop threatened to reject the painting because the colors were too disturbing. Charles Ramsey, Lloyd Ney's good friend, was disturbed by this comment and formed the “New Group.” This group rebelled against the traditional impressionists having to inaugurate before the Phillips Mill Exhibition on May 16, 1930.

Many years later a flood of artists came because of the Garber's influence for constant rain in Pennsylvania. This group consisted of prominent artists such as Robert A.D. Miller, Peter Keenan (1896-1952), Charles Evans (1907-1992); Henry Baker (1900-1957); Richard Wedderspoon, Carl Lindborg (1903-1994), Frederick Harer (1879-1947), Faye Swengel Badura (1904-1991), Louis Stone (1902-1984) and Charles Ward (1900-1962) among others. Other important modernist painters to later settle in the area after the initial arrivals were Josef Zenk (1904-2000), Bror Julius Nordfeldt (1878-1955), Swiss-born Joseph Meierhans (1890-1980), Clarence Carter (1904-2000) and precisionist, Richard Peter Hoffman (1911-1997) of Allentown. These fifteen people made a big mark to for Impressionistic society. Finally, there was the “Last Ten.” This group stood out because this group consisted all of women. The Ten consisted of Fern Coppedge (1883-1951) and M. Elizabeth Price (1877-1965) from New Hope, as well as Nancy Maybin Ferguson (1869-1967), Emma Fordyce MacRae (1887-1974), Eleanor Abrams (1885-1967), Constance Cochrane (1888-1962) and Theresa Bernstein (1890-2002). These women influenced many other women to join the Pennsylvania Impressionism Movement.

Similar to the French impressionist movement, this style of art is characterized by an interest in the quality of color, light, and the time of day. This group of artists usually painted in plein air, or out of doors, to capture the moment. According to James A. Michener Art Museum’s Senior Curator Brian Peterson, “what most characterized Pennsylvania impressionism was not a single, unified style but rather the emergence of many mature, distinctive voices: Daniel Garber's luminous, poetic renditions of the Delaware River; Fern Coppedge's colorful village scenes; Robert Spencer's lyrical views of mills and tenements; John Folinsbee's moody, expressionistic snowscapes; and William L. Lathrop's deeply felt, evocative Bucks County vistas."

Art historian Thomas C. Folk defines the movement as the Late Pennsylvania School, those artists that "came to prominence in Bucks County after 1915 or after the Armory Show and the Panama-Pacific International Exposition." According to Folk, the three most notable artists in this group were John Fulton Folinsbee, Walter Emerson Baum and George Sotter.

One of the artists, Walter Emerson Baum, worked as a teacher and educator and through his founding of the Baum School of Art and the Allentown Art Museum, would serve to expand the influence of the movement out of Bucks County and into Lehigh County, specifically Allentown and the Lehigh Valley, where the movement continued to flourish into the 1940s and 1950s. Today, this group of artists is collectively known as the Baum Circle.

List of Pennsylvania Impressionist painters

See also

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New Hope, Pennsylvania Borough in Pennsylvania, United States

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American Impressionism Style of painting

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Mary Elizabeth Price

Mary Elizabeth Price, also known as M. Elizabeth Price, was an American Impressionist painter. She was an early member of the Philadelphia Ten, organizing several of the group's exhibitions. She steadily exhibited her works with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the National Academy of Design, and other organizations over the course of her career. She was one of the several family members who entered the field of art as artists, dealers, or framemakers.

William Langson Lathrop

William Langson Lathrop was an American Impressionist landscape painter and founder of the art colony at New Hope, Pennsylvania. He is sometimes referred to as a "Pennsylvania Impressionist". Lathrop was a member of the National Academy of Design and served on numerous exhibition juries during his career. He received a gold medal at the Panama–Pacific International Exposition (1915) in San Francisco, California, which showcased works by many of the major American artists of the time. Today, Lathrop's paintings are in numerous museum collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.

Edward Willis Redfield American painter

Edward Willis Redfield was an American Impressionist landscape painter and member of the art colony at New Hope, Pennsylvania. He is best known today for his impressionist scenes of the New Hope area, often depicting the snow-covered countryside. He also spent his summers on Boothbay Harbor, Maine, where he interpreted the local coastline. He frequently painted Maine's Monhegan Island.

Daniel Garber American painter

Daniel Garber was an American Impressionist landscape painter and member of the art colony at New Hope, Pennsylvania. He is best known today for his large impressionist scenes of the New Hope area, in which he often depicted the Delaware River. He also painted figurative interior works and excelled at etching. In addition to his painting career, Garber taught art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts for over forty years.

John E. Berninger

John Emil Berninger was an American landscape painter and Pennsylvania impressionist. He lived and painted in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in the United States.

Karl Buesgen American painter

Karl Henry Buesgen, Sr. was an American landscape painter and Pennsylvania impressionist typically associated with the Baum Circle, a group of artists either taught by, associated with, or directly influenced by Pennsylvania impressionist painter Walter Emerson Baum.

Walter Emerson Baum was an American artist and educator active in the Bucks and Lehigh County areas of Pennsylvania in the United States. In addition to being a prolific painter, Baum was also responsible for the founding of the Baum School of Art and the Allentown Art Museum.

James A. Michener Art Museum

The Michener Art Museum is a private, non-profit museum in Doylestown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, founded in 1988 and named for the Pulitzer Prize–winning writer James A. Michener, a Doylestown resident. It is situated within the old stone walls of a historic 19th-century prison and houses a collection of Bucks County visual arts, along with holdings of 19th- and 20th-century American art. It is noted for its Pennsylvania Impressionism collection, an art colony centered in nearby New Hope during the early 20th century, as well as its changing exhibitions, ranging from international touring shows to regionally focused exhibitions.

John Fulton Folinsbee

John Fulton "Jack" Folinsbee was an American landscape, marine and portrait painter, and a member of the art colony at New Hope, Pennsylvania. He is best known today for his impressionist scenes of New Hope and Lambertville, New Jersey, particularly the factories, quarries, and canals along the Delaware River.

Arlington Nelson Lindenmuth was an American landscape and portrait painter who lived and painted in Allentown, Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley region of the United States. He is a member of the Baum Circle, the group of artists either taught by, associated with, or directly influenced by Pennsylvania impressionist painter Walter Emerson Baum.

Fern Coppedge American painter

Fern Isabel Coppedge was an American impressionist painter.

Roy Cleveland Nuse

Roy Cleveland Nuse (1885-1975) was a Pennsylvania Impressionist artist and a teacher at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 1925 to 1954. For almost 60 years he lived and painted in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, working in a plein-air, impressionist style. His six children were often the subjects of his paintings, depicted especially in rural, outdoor settings. Working primarily in oils, but also in pastels, Nuse painted landscapes, figures in the landscape, still lifes and portraits.

William Newport Goodell

William Newport Goodell (1908–1999) was an American artist, craftsman, and educator. He was born August 16, 1908 in Germantown, Philadelphia and briefly attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), including its country school in Chester Springs, studying under Pennsylvania impressionist Daniel Garber and noted academician Joseph Thurman Pearson, Jr., before opening his own studio on Germantown Avenue in 1929.

Charles Rosen (painter) American painter

Charles Rosen was an American painter who lived for many years in Woodstock, New York. In the 1910s he was acclaimed for his Impressionist winter landscapes. He became dissatisfied with this style and around 1920 he changed to a radically different cubist-realist (Precisionism) style. He became recognized as one of the leaders of the Woodstock artists colony.

Rae Sloan Bredin

Rae Sloan Bredin was an American painter. He was a member of the New Hope, Pennsylvania school of impressionists. He is known for his peaceful spring and summer landscapes with relaxed groups of women and children.

Robert Spencer (artist)

Robert Carpenter Spencer was an American painter who received extensive recognition in his day. He was one of the Pennsylvania impressionists, but is better known for his paintings of the mills and working people of the Delaware River region than for landscapes. His work is held in numerous public collections.

Walter Elmer Schofield American painter

Walter Elmer Schofield was an American Impressionist landscape and marine painter. Although he never lived in New Hope or Bucks County, Schofield is regarded as one of the Pennsylvania Impressionists.

Mary Perkins Taylor

Mary Smyth Perkins Taylor (1875–1931) was an American Impressionist painter and fabric artist. She was a member of a group of artists centered in Bucks County, Pennsylvania known as the Delaware Valley group, or the Pennsylvania Impressionists.