Edward Willis Redfield

Artist Biography

Pennsylvania Impressionist and Leading American Landscapist.

By Eva Gratta

I. Biography
II. Chronology
III. Collections
IV. Exhibitions
V. Memberships
VI. Notes
VII. Suggested Resources

I. Biography

Edward Willis Redfield, considered a leading Pennsylvania Impressionist, was one of the most popular American landscapists of his time. Among the first artists to settle in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Redfield is often considered a member of the New Hope School, despite the fact that he markedly separated himself from the group. Primarily trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and in France, at the Académie Julian and École des Beaux-Arts, Redfield was enormously successful. Admired by contemporary collectors and critics alike, he contributed to many exhibitions and juries, winning virtually innumerable prizes. Best known for his large scale, snow swept landscapes, Redfield’s paintings often picture the area surrounding his farm in Center Bridge, Pennsylvania, but he also painted during his European travels and summers in Maine. A plein-air practitioner with a rugged persona, Redfield merged the French impressionist aesthetic with the American mythos of the “strenuous life.”[1] Today his work can be found in many prominent collections including the Smithsonian, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and Museum Luxembourg in Paris.

Redfield was born in Bridgeville, Delaware on December 18, 1869 and shortly thereafter his family moved to Camden, NJ. Foreshadowing his future career, he first exhibited a drawing with a group of local school children at the Centennial Exhibition of 1876. He received his earliest training at a German turnverein class in Camden, which included copying lithographs and engravings. By 1881 he was attending classes at the Spring Garden Institute and Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and later hired the commercial artist Henry Rolfe to help him prepare his application to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Scholars often credit Rolfe with teaching Redfield a cornerstone of his technique: capturing the essence of a scene in “one go”. At the Pennsylvania Academy from 1887-1889, Redfield studied under Thomas Anshutz, James Kelly and Thomas Hovendon[2].

Following his graduation, Redfield traveled to England and France with Frank Hays, Alexander Stirling Calder and C.A. Houston. Another friend from the Pennsylvania Academy, Robert Henri, accompanied him to Paris. He initially intended to become a portraitist, studying at the Académie Julian under Adolphe William Bouguereau and Tony Robert-Fleury, but Redfield’s interests turned to landscape while in France. During the summer of 1890 he and Henri traveled to Saint-Nazaire where he painted en plein-air. Furthermore, Redfield noted that his greatest European influences were Monet, Pissarro and Thaulow, a Norwegian Impressionist renowned for his snowy landscapes. By 1891 Redfield was staying at the Hotel Deligant in Brolles, near Fontainbleau with a group of Americans. It was there that he painted Road-Forest of Fontainebleau, which was accepted by the Paris Salon. This was a turning point in Redfield’s career, Road-Forest of Fontainebleau was sold at the Pennsylvania Academy and its new owner helped him get his first solo exhibition at the Doll and Richards Gallery in Boston. Moreover, in Brolles, he met Elise Deligant, the innkeeper’s daughter, who he married in 1893[3].

The couple arrived in the United States soon after their London wedding and lived with the artist’s family for a time in Glenside, PA. At this moment Redfield was active in the Philadelphia art scene, attending weekly discussions at Henri’s studio with other leading painters of his day. In 1898, Redfield bought his farm in Center Bridge, Pennsylvania. The Redfield farm was anything but hospitable in its early days, their home was run down, scantly furnished and flooded in accordance with the cycles of the Delaware River. Redfield was an artistic pioneer of Bucks County and his rugged life there intimately connected him to the land that fueled his artistic production. The artist notoriously painted outdoors even during the harshest Pennsylvania winters. Not long after settling at Center Field the Redfield’s first child died in an accident on the property and, in 1899, they went back to France so that Elise could grieve with her family. In 1899 the Pennsylvania Academy mounted a one-man show of Redfield’s work. He continued to work while in France and submitted two paintings to the Paris Universal Exposition of 1900, where he won a bronze medal.

Between 1900-1920 Redfield reached the apex of his career. During that time he received fifteen solo exhibitions, which constitute a mere handful of his total exhibition record. Moreover, he received around twenty-seven prizes and was on the jury of thirteen exhibitions. These activities took place at the most prestigious institutions in the United States and abroad, including the Pennsylvania Academy, Corcoran Gallery, National Academy of Design, Art Institute of Chicago and Paris Salon. Aside from the sheer volume of his activity these years witnessed some of Redfield’s greatest triumphs: in 1909 the French government bought February for Luxembourg Museum and in 1915 he received his own gallery and a commemorative medal at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Moreover, Redfield experimented with urban subject matter while staying in Manhattan in 1909 and in Pittsburgh in 1919. Although he continued to paint and exhibit steadily Redfield’s public participation decreased after the early 1920’s[4].

Elise died in 1947 and soon thereafter Redfield burned a number of his paintings, preserving only those that he thought worthwhile. He painted into the early 1950s but increasingly turned to making crafts, largely furniture in the Early American style. He died at Center Bridge on October 19, 1965.

II. Chronology

1869 Born on December 18 in Bridgeville, Delaware. Family moves to Camden, NJ shortly thereafter.
1881 Attends Spring Garden Institute and the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.
1887-89 Attends Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
1888 First exhibits at PAFA Annual Exhibition.
1889 Goes to Paris, attending the Académie Julian and the École des Beaux-Arts.
1891 Successfully submits Road-Forest of Fontainebleau to Paris Salon.
1892 First solo show, at Doll and Richards Gallery Boston. Returns to US.
1893 Marries Elise Deligant in London and returns to US to live in Glenside, PA with Redfield family.
1895 Juror at PAFA.
1898 Purchase land in Center Bridge, Pennsylvania. After first child dies returns to France.
1899 Solo exhibition at PAFA.
1900 Exhibits at Universal Exposition in Paris and wins bronze medal. Returns to Center Bridge.
1901 Wins bronze medal at Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, NY. Serves on jury of PAFA and Art Institute of Chicago.
1902 Teaches during the summer at Center Bridge.
1903 Begins spending summers in Boothbay Harbor, Maine.
1904 Wins silver medal at Louisiana Purchase Exposition, which he helped organize. Serves as juror at PAFA.
1906 Elected Academician to National Academy of Design.
1907 Serves on jury of PAFA, Corcoran and Art Institute of Chicago exhibitions.
1908 Serves on jury of Corcoran Biennial.
1909 Serves on jury of NAD. French government purchases February for Luxembourg Museum, Paris. Paints “Manhattan Nocturnes” in New York City.
1914 Chairman of jury for Corcoran Biennial.
1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Serves on jury, receives solo gallery and commemorative award.
1916 Juror at PAFA.
1919 Spends time living in Pittsburgh while son attends Carnegie Technical School. Serves on juries of Carnegie International Exhibition and Art Institute of Chicago Annual Exhibition.
1923 Chairman of jury for Corcoran Biennial.
1926 Serves on jury and hanging committee for Philadelphia Sesquicentennial International Exposition.
1932 Juror for Corcoran Biennial.
1947 Wife Elise dies. Redfield burns a portion of his works.
1965 Dies on October 19th.

III. Collections

The Corcoran Gallery of Art
National Academy of Design
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Daniel J. Terra Collection, Terra Foundation for the Arts
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Museum Luxembourg, Paris, France
National Museum of American Art, Washington D.C.

IV. Exhibitions

1888 First exhibits at PAFA.
1891 Paris Salon accepts Road-Forest of Fontainebleau.
1892 Solo exhibition at Doll and Richards Gallery, Boston.
1894 Wins awards for Evening and Winter in France at Art Institute of Chicago.
1896 Gold medal from Art Club of Philadelphia.
1899 Solo exhibition at PAFA.
1900 The Bridge at Joinville and The Road to Edge Hill exhibited at Paris Universal Exposition. Redfield wins bronze medal.
1901 Wins bronze medal at Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, New York. Solo exhibitions at Art Club of Philadelphia and St. Botolph Club.
1903 Receives PAFA Temple gold medal for Winter Evening.
1904 Wins second Hallgarten Prize from NAD, where he exhibited Near Boothbay Harbor and The Harbor. Receives Shaw fund prize from Society of American Artists for Boothbay Harbor.
1905 Wins Jennie Sesnan Gold Medal from PAFA for Hillside Farm in the annual exhibition and Gold Medal of the Second Class from Carnegie International Exhibition for The Crest.
1907 Wins William A. Clark Award from Corcoran Biennial and Gold Medal of Honor from Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Also, receives award at Carnegie International Exhibition.
1908 Receives honorable mention from Paris Salon. Also receives awards from Corcoran Biennial and Carnegie International exhibitions.
1909 Exhibits at Art Institute of Chicago and wins 3rd class medal from Paris Salon. Solo exhibitions PAFA, Detroit Museum of Art, Albright Art Gallery, City Art Museum of Saint Louis.
1910 Gold medal from Exposition International de Orte, Buenos Aires. Solo exhibition at Corcoran Gallery and St. Botolph club.
1912 Wins PAFA Lippincott Prize and an award at the Carnegie International Exhibition.
1913 Receives awards at Carnegie International Exhibition, Washington Society of Artists, Art Institute of Chicago.
1914 Wins prize at Carnegie Institute. Receives solo exhibition at Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, NY.
1915 Solo gallery at Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco.
1916 Solo exhibitions at Corcoran and Grand Rapids Art Association.
1917 Solo exhibitions at Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Albright Art Gallery, Worcester Art Museum.
1918 Exhibits with Edmund Tarbell at Corcoran Gallery.
1919 Exposition d’Artistes de l’École Américaine, Luxembourg Museum, Paris. Solo exhibitions at Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester and Nebraska Art Association.
1920 Wins prize at PAFA and receives solo exhibition at Art Club of Philadelphia.
1922 Exhibits at National Academy of Design, winning Carnegie prize.
1924 Solo exhibition Milwaukee Art Institute.
1925 Solo exhibition Macbeth Gallery, New York
1927 Saltus Medal from NAD.
1928 Exhibits at Grand Central Art Galleries, NY, Corcoran Gallery and receives solo exhibition at St. Botolph Club.
1929 Solo exhibitions at Grand Rapids Art Gallery, Detroit Institute of Arts, Art Club of Philadelphia and Des Moines Association of Fine Arts.
1930 Solo exhibition, Grand Central Art Galleries
1959 Solo exhibition Woodmere Art Gallery, Philadelphia.
1960 Solo exhibition at Parry’s Barn, New Hope, Pennsylvania.
1961 Solo exhibition at Buck Hill Art Association, Buck Hill Falls, Pennsylvania
1961-2 Solo exhibition at Reading Public Museum and Art Gallery, PA.
1968 Solo exhibitions at Grand Central Art Galleries and Newman Art Galleries, Philadelphia.
1972 Solo exhibition at Pennsylvania State Museum, Harrisburg, PA.
1973 Solo exhibition at Grand Central Art Galleries.
1976 Solo exhibition at Sussex County Court House, Georgetown, Delaware.
1981 Solo exhibition at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ.
1982 Solo exhibition at Grand Central Art Galleries.
1987-8 Solo exhibition at Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, PA; Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown Ohio.
2004-5 Solo exhibition at James A. Michener Art Museum, New Hope, PA; Sewell C. Biggs Museum of American Art, Dover, Delaware.

V. Memberships

Art Club of Philadelphia
Society of American Artists
Philadelphia Sketch Club
National Institute of Arts and Letters, New York
National Academy of Design
Salmagundi Club
Grand Central Art Galleries
Fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
American Academy of Arts and Letters

VI. Notes

[1] Constance Kimmerle, Edward W. Redfield: Just Values and Fine Seeing. (Bucks County, PA: James A Michener Art Museum; Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004) p. 13-17.
[2] Constance Kimmerle, Edward W. Redfield: Just Values and Fine Seeing, 16-20.
[3] Constance Kimmerle, Edward W. Redfield: Just Values and Fine Seeing,21-23.
[4] Constance Kimmerle, Edward W. Redfield: Just Values and Fine Seeing,111-113.

VII. Suggested Resources

Edward Willis Redfield Papers, 1836-1973. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian
Institution, Washington, D.C.
Gerdts, William H. American Impressionism. New York: Abbeville Press, 2001.
Folk, Thomas C. The Pennsylvania Impressionists. New Jersey, Fairleigh Dickinson University
Press; London, Associated University Presses, 1997.
Fletcher, J.M.W. Edward Willis Redfield, 1869-1965, An American Impressionist: His Paintings and
the Man Behind the Palette
. Lahaska, PA: JMWF Publishers, 1996.
Kimmerle, Constance. Edward W. Redfield: Just Values and Fine Seeing. Bucks County, PA:
James A Michener Art Museum; Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.
Peterson, Brian H. ed. Pennsylvania Impressionism. Essays by William H. Gerdts, Sylvia Yount,
and Brian H. Peterson.; with additional contributions by Erika Jaeger Smith
... [et al.]. Bucks County, Pa. :James A. Michener Art Museum ; Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press,2002.

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