Schofield, Walter Elmer – American Artist

Walter Elmer Schofield (1867-1944)

W. E. Schofield, or “Elmer” as he was known to his many friends, was undoubtedly one of the leading proponents of what has come to be described as Pennsylvania Impressionism.

Born in Philadelphia in 1867, he studied at Swarthmore College for a year before re-locating to San Antonio, Texas to work on a ranch – a characteristically bold move for an artist whose life, more than any other Pennsylvania Impressionist painter, would be marked by a wanderlust.

In 1889, Schofield enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where he studied until 1892, most likely under the tuition of Thomas Anshutz. Whilst at the Academy he met with his contemporaries John Sloan, William Glackens, Charles Grafly and, most importantly, Edward Redfield and Robert Henri. The relationship between these artists would be cemented by regular meetings in Robert Henri’s Philadelphia studio where Everett Shinn, George Luks and Hugh Breckenridge would also be in attendance.

Following his departure from the Academy in 1892, Schofield traveled to France studying with the noted Salon artist, Adolphe-William Bouguereau, amongst others. During this period Schofield also visited Belgium, Holland and England. It was this latter country to which he would most frequently return.

In 1897, two years after his return to the United States and a year before Redfield and Lathrop settled in Bucks County, Schofield began to produce his first Pennsylvanian snow scenes. Later that same year he met Murielle Redmayne, an English lady on a visit to Philadelphia, who subsequently would become his wife. Initially, the newly-weds lived in Germantown, Pennsylvania, but Murielle missed England and her family there, so in 1901 they moved to her home town of Southport, Lancastershire. Shortly thereafter, and now with two young sons Seymour and Sydney, they settled in St. Ives, Cornwall, a part of the world with which Schofield was already acquainted. St. Ives was, and remains, an area much favored by artists. Although the Schofield family would move to other parts of England before finally returning to Cornwall in 1921, it was the Cornish coastline and landscape that would provide the inspiration for some of Schofield’s finest works.

By this time Schofield had established a working pattern whereby he made annual visits to the United States, painting here between October and April, before returning to Cornwall and his family in late spring. It was shortly after the move to England that Schofield’s artistic style began to change. He shifted away from the more muted tonal works of the earlier years and developed his mature bolder style with its painterly bravura and lively palette, still all the while painting directly from nature.

Schofield’s itinerant lifestyle continued unabated throughout his life, visits to Europe interspersed with trips within the U.S. to New England, Arizona, New Mexico and California, where during the 1930′s he taught art in Los Angeles. Having already served in France during World War I, Schofield found himself in England during World War II where travel restrictions made visits to the United States difficult. He died in Cornwall in 1944, but was later interred in the Saint James the Lesser Church in the city of his birth, Philadelphia.

Schofield received numerous major awards during his lifetime and his work is represented in many major public and private collections throughout the United States. These include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Cincinnati Art Museum, Delaware Art Museum, the National Academy of Design in New York, the National Museum of American Art, Washington D.C. and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia.

biographical information courtesy of Samuel T. Freeman & Co.

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