In the late 19th and early 20th Century, New York and Boston were major centers of American Impressionism. These were American artists who had traveled to Europe and encountered the French Impressionists and their daring new approach to painting, or had been impressed by their work in exhibits mounted in the U.S., and incorporated some of their techniques into heir own uniquely American approach to painting.
This influence was less evident here in Philadelphia, the third major East Coast art center of the time, perhaps because of the traditional values emphasized by the dominant figure of Thomas Eakins and his followers at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
Instead, New Hope, Pennsylvania, a small town in nearby Bucks County, became the focal point for the group painters who are now known as the Pennsylvania Impressionists, as I mentioned in my article on New Hope, PA and Lambertville, NJ from last year.
For these painters, New Hope and the surrounding area became their own Giverny, their artist colony on the river, akin to the American Impressionist centers in Cos Cobb and Old Lyme Connecticut (see my post on Impressionist Giverny: American Painters in France, 1885-1915).
The James A. Michener Art Museum, in Doylestown, which has one of the most important collections of Pennsylvania Impressionist works, has mounted an exhibit in their smaller satellite museum in New Hope called Art and the River.
The exhibit focuses on interpretations of the Delaware River and related waterways in the area of the New Hope colony and features works from a number of the major figures of Pennsylvania Impressionism, including Daniel Garber, Edward Redfield, William Lathrop, Harry Leith-Ross, George Sotter and Fern Coppedge, as well as some less well known artists like Kenneth Newmaker (see my previous posts about Daniel Garber and Fern Coppedge).
The exhibit also features work from the New Hope modernist painters from the 1930’s and a selection of contemporary Bucks County artists like Paul Matthews, Daniel Anthonisen, Jan Lipes and Robert Beck and several others.
The museum has a page and press release about the exhibit, but they contain few images. The Michener does have a long list of articles about Bucks County Artists, with four of five images for each. Unfortunately, these are rather small. You can supplement them with somewhat larger images from commercial print supplier Encore Editions, which has a fairly large catalog of Pennsylvania Impressionists. I’ve linked to a few highlights below, and I plan to feature many of these artists in more detail in future posts.
I’ll also mention an excellent and beautiful book, Pennsylvania Impressionism, edited by Brian H. Peterson, who is Senior Curator at the Michener. There is also a large and beautiful, though perhaps less scholarly definitive book, New Hope for American Art, published by Jim’s of Lambertville, a local gallery that specializes in Pennsylvania Impressionist works, and written by the gallery’s owner, Jim Alterman. The gallery is a co-sponsor of the Art and the River exhibit. I had a chance to stop by the gallery on this visit, and was duly impressed with their selection of Pennsylvania Impressionist artists.
Though the exhibit is not large, it’s extensive enough to give a nice cross section of some of the Pennsylvania Impressionists, as well as some contemporary painters who have found a connection, and source of inspiration, in the same place on the river.
(Image above: Edward Redfield, Harry Leith-Ross, Daniel Garber, Kenneth Newmaker)