Edward Willis Redfield – American Artist

Edward Willis Redfield (American, 1869 to 1965)

The leading exponent of Pennsylvania Impressionism, Edward Redfield was born in Bridgeville, Delaware in 1869. After his family moved to Camden, New Jersey, he studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, then went to Europe in 1889, where he attended classes at the Academie Julian in Paris. Together with Robert Henri and several other American students, Redfield traveled along the Mediterranean coast and to Venice, painting landscapes; from then on he worked almost exclusively en plein air. In 1892 he returned to the United States, had a solo exhibition in Boston, and moved to Philadelphia. In 1898 he settled in Center Bridge, Pennsylvania, where he would live until his death in 1965. Influential as an artist, teacher and exhibition juror, by 1910 Redfield was considered one of the finest landscape painters in the United States, and his works were already represented in numerous public collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Luxembourg Museum in Paris.

For all his worldly renown, Redfield was very much a local artist: until he bought a car in 1912 he painted most of his canvases within walking distance of his home. Although he continued to travel, painting in New York City, Europe and on the Maine coast, the subject with which he is most strongly identified is the Bucks County landscape, particularly in winter.

Soon after settling in Center Bridge, Redfield determined to paint rapidly, focusing on transient effects of light. He would first select a subject and study it intently, sometimes for a period of months, before commencing to paint. As he put it, “See it, seize it, remember it – then get out and paint it.”(1) Redfield painted numerous large snow scenes on site, and was recognized as the premier American painter of the subject. His vigorous technique was hailed as an expression of positive nationalistic qualities.(2) An article about him in 1910 declared:

Among the men who have done the most to infuse an authentic note of nationalism into contemporary American art Edward W. Redfield occupies a prominent position… To-day Mr. Redfield, though only just turning forty, stands as the foremost exponent of a virile, masculine art that strongly reflects the times in which we live.(3)

(1) Constance Kimmerle, Edward W. Redfield: Just Values and Fine Seeing (Doylestown and Philadelphia: James A. Michener Art Museum and University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), 20.
92) William H. Gerdts, American Impressionism (New York: Abbeville Press, 1984), 299.
[3] J. Nilsen Laurvik, Edward W. Redfield-Landscape Painter, International Studio 41, no. 162 (August 1910), quoted by Kimmerle, 118-119.

Information courtesy of Shannon’s Fine Art Auctioneers, October 2012.

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