My wife and I recently took a pleasant day-trip to the area of New Hope, Pennsylvania. She grew up in the area and we had a good time exploring sights both familiar and changed, and doing a little “art tourism”.
New Hope is a small town in Bucks County, about 40 miles northeast of Philadelphia, that became a thriving artist’s colony around the turn of the last century (see my posts on Daniel Garber). Prior to that, it was a key point on a canal system that, at a time when “highways” were muddy ruts, helped move goods past drops in the Delaware River that weren’t navigable.
I’ve mentioned the New Hope area before in articles about Garber and Fern Coppedge, artists who, along with Edward Redfield, John Folinsbee, Walter Schofield, William Lathrop and others, have come to be called the “Pennsylvania Impressionists” (a term I always put in quotes as I doubt the artists ever referred to themselves that way).
New Hope these days is still known as a center for art and artists, but is less of a real artists’ colony and more of a tourist destination built on the remnants of that reputation. Though it certainly has some charm, the town now has a feeling of Gucci meets Jersey beach town; its main streets lined with restaurants and shops that the barge and and canal workers of the past, or the artists of Garber’s day, would not have imagined; and it’s becoming weighted down with the mall and condo barnacles that always seem to crust themselves onto any place with a hint of artsy bohemian appeal these days.
There are a number of galleries, though actually not as many as I might have expected. Unfortunately the Gratz Gallery, which deals in 19th Century art from the New Hope school, the Philadelphia 10 (see my post on Fern Coppedge) and artists from The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, had closed for the day by the time we got to it.
Also disappointingly, the small New Hope branch of the James Michener Museum didn’t have any of that museum’s collection of New Hope artists on display.
At the foot of Bridge Street, however, a steel girder bridge lets you drive or stroll over the Delaware river, not far from where George Washington and his army made their famous crossing, to the larger, less famous, but more “real” town of Lambertville, New Jersey, which, I think is more interesting in terms of art galleries and currently working artists; even though it’s also obviously a tourist town.
There we found a number of galleries and a thriving arts scene, supported by the area’s reputation as an art center and its location within an easy drive of both Philadelphia and New York, and I was pleased to find an abundance of artists working in the kind of painterly realism that fits into the traditions of the New Hope school.
New Hope and Lambertville have Second Saturday gallery walks, and the 2007 Annual New Hope Outdoor Arts and Crafts Festival is this weekend Sept 29th & 30th.
[Image above, left to right: Gordon Haas, Dot Bunn, Robert Beck, Sandy Askey]