New Hope Art Colony/Pennsylvania Impressionism    

Around the turn of the last century, artists began to congregate in and around the town of New Hope in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. This quaint little town along the Delaware River is situated less then forty miles from Philadelphia and seventy miles from Manhattan. Artists found New Hope appealing because the picturesque surroundings provided endless subjects to paint. It was also in close proximity to the nation’s art capitals of New York and Philadelphia.

First to arrive was William Langson Lathrop (1859-1938) in 1898, who was deemed “Father of the School.” Lathrop was older than most of the others and was looked up to not only as a well-respected artist and teacher but as a leader of sorts.

Later that same year, Edward Redfield (1869-1965) would arrive, a young and outgoing plein-air painter. Redfield was said to be “the pioneer of the realistic painting of winter in America,” by renowned art critic, J. Nilsen Laurvik, as stated in the catalog of the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915. His style was bold and fresh as he stood facing the elements recording nature in a way not seen before, with vigorous brushwork thickly layering his paints, one color on top of another. Redfield went on to become one of the most highly decorated American artists of all time, garnering more medals, awards, and prizes than nearly all others. Making visits to both Redfield and Lathrop were artists Walter Schofield (1867-1944), George Sotter (1879-1953) and Henry Snell (1858-1943) spending time in New Hope as early as 1902.

In 1907 came Daniel Garber (1880-1958). Stark in contrast to Redfield, Garber rarely painted winter, and his exuberant, perfectly drafted compositions were painted with a much more delicate approach. Garber applied his paint lightly using a vast multitude of vibrant colors combined with earth tones to effectively create a realistic sense of depth and light.

Soon to follow would be Charles Rosen (1878-1950), Morgan Colt (1876-1926), Robert Spencer (1879-1931) and Rae Sloan Bredin (1881-1933). This was the beginning, and within a short time word spread of the painter-friendly environment. Before long, the New Hope Art Colony budded and blossomed.

The ‘teens’ marked the arrival of John Folinsbee (1892-1972), Clarence Johnson (1894-1981), Joseph Pearson (1876-1951), Charles Ramsey (1875-1951), Fern Coppedge (1883-1951), Harry Leith-Ross (1886-1973), Mary Elizabeth Price (1877-1965), and Ethel Wallace (1885-1968).

The ‘twenties’ brought Kenneth Nunamaker (1890-1957), Samuel George Phillips (1890-1965), Stanley Reckless (1892-1955), Walter Baum (1884-1956), Arthur Meltzer (1893-1989), Antonio Martino (1902-1988), Richard Wedderspoon (1889-1976), Robert A.D. Miller (1905-1966) and Lloyd Ney (1893-1965).

Many organizations and groups formed within the colony, ultimately resulting in a split between the Impressionists and the Modernists. In 1929, a committee spearheaded by William Lathrop formulated a deal to purchase the old Phillips Mill property for use as a venue to hold exhibitions and community functions. The mill, located across the road from Lathrop’s house several miles north of New Hope, was owned by Dr. George Marshall. A lifelong friend of Lathrop, Marshall was also the father-in-law of R.A.D. Miller. Subsequently, the Phillips Mill Community Association was born and is still operating today.

In 1930, modernist Lloyd Ney submitted a painting of the New Hope canal for entry to a juried exhibition at the Phillips Mill. One of the bridges depicted in this work was painted in a bright red. An influential member of the jury board, William Lathrop, elected to reject Ney’s painting, citing the bright colors too disturbing. When word of this reached fellow modernist, Charles Ramsey, he decided to take action. Miffed by this disregard for their modernist ideas and techniques, Ramsey formed the “New Group.” This was an organization formed to rebel against the more traditional impressionists having its inaugural show a day before the Phillips Mill exhibition on May 16, 1930. The New Group held this exhibition in the New Hope Town Hall and it was operated with no formal organization or committees, allowing each artist to select his or her work of choice. Artists included Charles Ramsey, Stanley Reckless, Ethel Wallace, Lloyd Ney and Charles Garner (1894-1933).

Although Charles Ramsey was creating cubist and modernist works in New Hope in the late teens (such as The New Hope-Lambertville Bridge, c. 1919), the New Group was the first designated modernist organization to form there, and soon followed by another association called the Independents. This group consisted of most New Group members as well 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), Scandinavian-born Bror Julius Nordfeldt (1878-1955), Swiss-born Joseph Meierhans (1890-1980), who studied in New York with John Sloan; Clarence Carter (1904-2000) and precisionist, Richard Peter Hoffman (1911-1997) of Allentown.

Artists came to visit or live in the New Hope Art Colony from a vast array of locales. In this book, over one hundred of the artists represented had significant affiliations with this school of painting. All of the others lived and worked within a fifty-mile radius of New Hope, whether in Pennsylvania or New Jersey. Within this region, several surrounding sub-groups existed..

In Newark, there were John Grabach (1886-1981), Henry Gasser (1909-1981) and Adolph Konrad (1915-2003). Of the Philadelphians, there were Frank Reed Whiteside (1866-1929), Hobson Pittman (1890-1972), Emlen Etting (1905-1993), Earle Horter (1881-1940), and Walter Stuempfig (1914-1970). The Lehigh Valley painters had John Berninger (1897-1981), Tod Lindenmuth (1885-1976), Melville Stark (1903-1987), Walter Mattern (1892-1946) and Orlando Wales (1865-1933). Artists of the New Jersey shore region included Thomas Manley (1853-1938), Gustave Cimiotti (1875-1969), Ida Stroud (1869-1944), Clara Stroud (1890-1984), and Carl Buergerniss (1877-1956).

There was also the Chester Springs group: Mildred Bunting Miller (1892-1964), Grace M. Green (1904-1978) and Charles Morris Young (1869-1964), as well as the women of the Pennsylvania Academy such as Martha Walter (1875-1976) Alice Kent Stoddard (1885-1975), Elizabeth Washington (1871-1953) and Anna Speakman (d. 1937).

Lastly, there was The Philadelphia Ten. This group of thirty women artists was formed in 1917 and functioned until 1945. 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), among others.

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The text is from the book New Hope for American Art by James M. Alterman.