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 Edward Willis Redfield  (1869 - 1965)

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania/Delaware      Known for: landscape-snow-watery view painting

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Edward Willis Redfield
from Auction House Records.
Brooklyn Bridge at Night
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Bridgeville, Delaware, Edward Redfield moved to Philadelphia as a youngster and lived much of his life near New Hope in Bucks County, an easy distance north of Philadelphia. There he became the leader of the colony of artists known as the New Hope Impressionists. In modified Impressionist style and methods, he did many landscapes, especially panoramic snowscenes of the area, and used thick paint applied to large canvases with long brush strokes instead of the feathery strokes of true French Impressionism.

He usually finished his paintings in "one go" meaning plein-air, sometimes strapping his canvas to a tree on blustery days and standing knee-deep in snow. In the summers, he painted at Boothbay Harbor, Maine. He was also a teacher at the Pennsylvania Academy and a skilled craftsman who built his own house, cabinets and restored antiques.

Redfield took his early training from a Mr. Rolf in order to pass the examination at the Pennsylvania Academy, where he studied from 1885 to 1889 under teachers including Thomas Anschutz, James Kelley, and Thomas Hovenden. A fellow student was Robert Henri, with whom he developed a strong friendship, and with whom he traveled to Paris in 1889.

In Paris, he studied at the Academie Julian and the Ecole des Beaux Arts and his teachers were Adolphe Bouguereau and Tony Robert-Fleury. However, he wearied of the pervasive academic styles at these schools, and spent much time painting landscapes in the Forest of Fountainbleu outside of Paris. He also painted at Barbizon and Pont-Aven.

Married, he and his wife returned to Pennsylvania in 1898 and decided to settle in Center Bridge in Bucks County near New Hope. His presence in Bucks County was enough to lure many younger artists to the region making it a nucleus for the American Impressionist movement. Holding a special affection for this man, author and fellow-Pennsylvanian James Michener wrote that Redfield "had a cluttered workshop on the canal in which he did large landscapes, especially snow scenes, and made furntiture and delightfully desinged hooked rugs. I liked his work, and I liked him, a big Russian-bear kind of man." (Folk 10)

He exhibited extensively throughout the country and abroad, and won an impressive array of awards, including a Bronze medal, Paris Exposition (1900); Bronze Medal, Pan-American Exposition (1901); Temple Medal (1903), Jennie Sesnan Gold Medal (1904), Gold Medal of Honor (1907), Lippincott Prize (1912), and Stotesbury prize (1920), all from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Silver medal (1904), St. Louis Exposition; Fischer Prize and Gold Medal (1908) form the Corcoran Art Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Honorable Mention (1908) and Third Class Medal (1909), Paris Salon; Palmer Gold Medal (1913), Chicago Art Institute; Hors Concous Prize (1915), Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco; Carnegie Prize (1918), Altman Prize (1919), and Saltus Medal (1927), National Academy of Design.

His paintings are included in numerous museums and public collections throughout the country, such as the Boston Museum of Art, Brooklyn Art Institute, Carnegie Institute, Chicago Art Institute, Corcoran Gallery, Los Angeles Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Towards the end of his life, he burned hundreds of paintings that he regarded as inferior. He died in 1965 in Center Bridge, Pennsylvania, and his work received little attention during the decade following his death. However, he has come to be regarded as a key American Impressionist and appreciated for his influence at New Hope.

Michael David Zellman, "300 Years of American Art"
Newman Galleries
Peter Falk, "Who Was Who in American Art"
Thomas Folk, "The Pennsylvania Impressionists"

Biography from Newman Galleries:
Edward Redfield is regarded as the premier painter of the New Hope School of American Impressionism, and, in his time, was considered one of the best landscape painters in the country.  He was born in 1869 in Bridgeville, Delaware, and moved to Center Bridge, near New Hope, Pennsylvania in 1898.  His presence in Bucks County was enough to lure many younger artists to the region, making it an epicenter for the American Impressionist movement.

Redfield attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1885 to 1889, where he studied with Thomas Anshutz and Thomas Hovendon, and became close friends with Robert Henri.  In 1889, he traveled to Paris to study in the ateliers of William Bouguereau and Tony Robert-Fleury at the Academie Julian.  He then traveled around Europe until 1893, painting in France, Italy, and England.

He exhibited extensively throughout the country and abroad, and won an impressive array of awards, including a Bronze Medal, Paris Exposition (1900); Bronze Medal, Pan-American Exposition (1901); Temple Medal (1903), Jennie Sesnan Gold Medal (1904), Gold Medal of Honor (1907), Lippincott Prize (1912), and Stotesbury Prize (1920), all from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Silver Medal (1904), St. Louis Exposition; Fischer Prize and Gold Medal (1907) and First W.A. Clark Prize and Gold Medal (1908) from the Corcoran Art Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Honorable Mention (1908) and Third Class Medal (1909), Paris Salon; Palmer Gold Medal (1913), Chicago Art Institute; Hors Concous Prize (1915), Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco; Carnegie Prize (1918), Altman Prize (1919), amd Saltus Medal (1927), National Academy of Design.

Redfield is best known for his exuberant spring and winter landscape scenes of the Bucks County region.  His paintings are included in the most prominent museums and public collections throughout the country, such as the Boston Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Art Institute, the Carnegie Institute, the Chicago Art Institute, the Corcoran Gallery, the Los Angeles Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Edward Redfield died in 1965 in Center Bridge, Pennsylvania.

Biography from South Coast Fine Art:
Edward Willis Redfield was an American 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.

Redfield was born in 1869 in Bridgeville, Delaware.  He showed artistic talent at an early age, and from 1887 to 1889 studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.  While there he met Robert Henri, who was later to become an important American painter of the Ashcan School and the two became lifelong friends. Redfield later traveled to France and studied at the Académie Julian and the École des Beaux-Arts.  In Europe, Redfield admired the work of impressionist painters Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro and Norwegian Fritz Thaulow.  In France he met Elise Deligant, the daughter of an innkeeper, and the two married in 1893.

Redfield and his wife returned to America and settled in Centre Bridge, Pennsylvania, near New Hope.  Redfield was the first painter to move to the area, and is sometimes considered a co-founder of the artist colony at New Hope along with William Langson Lathrop.

The impressionist landscapes of Edward Redfield are noted for their bold application of paint and vibrant color. Redfield painted en plein air, directly from nature rather than in a studio.  He would often carry a large canvas into the snow, set it on an easel, and vigorously paint an entire scene in one standing over the course of a day.

Redfield was a harsh critic of his own art. In 1947 he burned a large number of his paintings that he considered sub-standard. It was around that time that he stopped painting.

Redfield died on October 19, 1965.

Biography from The Columbus Museum of Art, Georgia:
Edward Willis Redfield was born in1869 to a Quaker family who owned a wholesale nursery, flower and fruit business in Bridgeville, Delaware.(1)  In 1885, he attended classes at the Franklin Institute and the Spring Garden Institute in Philadelphia; he then studied under Thomas Anshutz and J. P. Kelley at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.  His fellow students included Hugh Breckenridge, (later considered the principal heir to the Impressionist tradition in Philadelphia) and Robert Henri.(2) Following the innovative curriculum begun by Thomas Eakins, Redfield spent his time at the Academy drawing from live models and from plaster casts of Greek sculpture.  Between 1889 and 1893, the artist made three trips abroad, during which time he studied with Tony Robert-Fleury and William Adolphe Bougereau at the Academié Julian, a school frequented by several of his contemporaries.  Redfield completed his studies at the Ecole de Beaux Arts.  During his stay in France, he met and married Elise Devin Deligant at the art colony of Fountainebleau.

Redfield returned to live in the Philadelphia area between 1893 and 1898 where he worked at his family's florist business and continued to paint part time.  It was at this time that he was granted a solo exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In 1898, Redfield and his new wife bought land beside the towpath of the Delaware River Canal in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, near Center Bridge.  It was here along the Delaware River that Redfield began creating the 1,060 plein-air paintings that define his oeuvre.  Most of the works were snow scenes, broadly and rapidly painted in a single session, on or near his property.  He also became known for several spring and summer landscapes, often set in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, where he spent summers.

While Redfield is categorized as an "American Impressionist"?indeed, his paintings can be seen as a dynamic American answer to the more genteel French aesthetic?his works are in general more closely related to the naturalism and painterly realism of Winslow Homer and heavily impasto, contemporaneous paintings by George Bellows.(3)  Redfield remains one of the most decorated American artists, winning over thirty major national and international awards and honors during his lifetime, including the bronze medal at the Exposition Universalle 1900 in Paris.  Redfield was considered the "dean" of a second generation of American Impressionist painters in a group that came to be known as the New Hope Circle, though he did not exhibit with them.(4)  Other artists associated with or influenced by this movement included Daniel Garber, Walter Elmer Schofield, John Folinsbee, Kenneth Nunamaker, George Sotter and Charles Rosen.  Redfield retired from painting when he was 84, saying he "didn't want to make old man pictures". He died at his home in 1965 in Pennsylvania at the age of 96.

1. J.M.W. Fletcher, Edward Willis Redfield 1869-1965, An American Impressionist and the Man Behind the Palette, (Lahaska, Pennsylvania: JMWF Publishing, 1996), 5.
2. William Gerdts, American Impressionism, (New York: Artabras, 1984), 234.
3. Ibid, 235.
4. Associated Press, Edward Redfield, Artist, Dies; Won Prizes for his Landscapes, New Hope, Pennsylvania, October 21, 1965.
Submitted by the Staff of the Columbus Museum

Biography from Hollis Taggart Galleries (Artists, R-Z):

Edward Willis Redfield (1869-1965)

Born on December 8, 1869, in Bridgeville, Delaware, Edward Willis Redfield spent most of his adolescence in Philadelphia.  From 1881 to 1884 he attended classes at Philadelphia's Spring Garden Institute and the Franklin Institute, where the teaching emphasized academic painting styles and technique.  Redfield then studied with Henry Rolfe, a commercial painter who taught Redfield that a work of art should be done in "one go," or at one sitting, and never retouched.  From 1887 to 1889 he attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where his teachers Thomas Anshutz, James Kelly, and Thomas Hovenden stressed objective and direct treatment of idealized subjects.

In 1889 Redfield spent a month in London visiting C. A. Houston and Alexander Stirling Calder before traveling to France with Robert Henri to take classes at the Académie Julian under William Adolphe Bouguereau and Tony Robert-Fleury.  He matriculated at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1890. Redfield became interested in painting snow scenes, one of which was accepted by the Paris Salon of 1891.  That year, while staying at the Hotel Deligant in the village of Bois-le-Rois in the forest of Fontainebleau, the artist fell in love with the innkeeper's daughter, Elise.

By August 1892, Redfield had returned to the United States for a one-man exhibition at the Doll & Richards Gallery in Boston.  He painted lake scenes while summering in North Hector, New York. The following January, he returned to the Hotel Deligant to marry Elise.  The couple traveled briefly to London, then settled in Glenside, Pennsylvania.  After a stay at Belle Island Farm in Center Bridge, Pennsylvania, where their first child died, Redfield and his wife moved back to France. During their absence, the Pennsylvania Academy mounted an exhibition of twenty-seven of Redfield's landscapes.

The Redfields returned to the United States to settle at Center Bridge in 1900.  Redfield was among the first artists to settle in the scenic Bucks County area, and he is often identified as a leader of the New Hope group of landscape painters (which also included Daniel Garber, William Langson Lathrop, Robert Spencer and Walter Schofield).  Redfield, himself, adamantly maintained his independence from the New Hope group.  Today Redfield and the other artists from the region who were active between 1910 and 1930 are known as the Pennsylvania Impressionists.

Redfield continued to paint snow scenes, selecting large canvases of 40 to 56 inches across. He would stand outside in snowy weather for eight hours at a time, filling his canvas at "one go" to capture the immediacy of the scene before him with rapid strokes of thick impasto.  The paintings display a vigorous realism and capture the glaring, reflective quality of snow.

In addition to painting the distinctive snow scenes, Redfield explored a variety of other landscape settings.  For example, Boothbay Harbor, Maine, was Redfield's summer home after 1903.  At that time seascapes and rock gardens on Monhegan Island entered his oeuvre.  In 1909 Redfield spent six months in New York City capturing tonalist-type views of the rapidly growing skyline.  In the late 1910s sleigh scenes and spring scenes became his specialty.

Redfield moved to Pittsburgh in 1919 to serve as juror for the Carnegie International Exhibition.  His experience of that city prompted new themes in his work.  For the first time, he depicted squalor and man's devastating effect on the environment.  These paintings mark a clear departure from his better-known scenes of untouched natural beauty.

In the 1920s Redfield began driving to the Poconos in search of new subject matter. His later work tended to have a more linear, less painterly quality with sharply defined forms.  Following his wife's death in 1947, Redfield burned hundreds of the 1200 paintings that were in his studio, saving only those he felt were of value.  In 1953 he stopped painting altogether and instead made crafts in the early American tradition, including hooked rugs, painted chests and toleware trays.  He died on October 19, 1965.

Redfield's work was always well received.  In fact, it has been claimed that Redfield won more awards for his paintings than any other American artist, with the exception of John Singer Sargent. Today, paintings by Redfield can be found in the collections of the Luxembourg Museum, Paris; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan; John Herron Art Institute, Indianapolis, Indiana; Telfair Academy, Savannah, Georgia; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minnesota; the Butler Art Institute, Youngstown, Ohio; and many other leading museums.

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Edward Redfield is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Impressionists Pre 1940
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
Paris Pre 1900

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