New Hope: Inspiration for Artists Past and Present
By Eamonn Smith, Administrator
I recently traveled to New Hope, Pennsylvania for a weekend getaway from New York, a trip which was not entirely a departure from my life at the gallery. New Hope was a vital hub for a group of successful American painters in the early 20th century. The town’s proximity to both New York City and Philadelphia made it an attractive destination for artists seeking refuge from the overwhelming pace of city life. The artist credited with inspiring this migration to New Hope was William Langson Lathrop (1859–1938). Lathrop was a talented landscape painter who specialized in depicting rustic subjects, often working en plein air. However, his most important contribution to the artists colony was as a teacher, mentoring a number of the artists in the New Hope School. Following in his footsteps, admired painters like Edward Willis Redfield (1869–1965) and Daniel Garber (1880–1958) moved to the town to find inspiration in this scenic community on the Delaware River.
Garber became one of the leading artists to emerge from the area, creating beautiful impressionist paintings of the Bucks County countryside, including rivers, forests, and fields. In 1907, after a long stint in Europe, he moved to Pennsylvania with his wife Mary. While overseas, the artist was exposed to sublime examples of French Impressionism and the influence of those celebrated artworks is evident in Garber’s paintings after his time abroad. His 1940 painting “Elm Bough” is an excellent example of his unique form of American Impressionism, where using colorful brushwork, he infused cheerful light into a serene riverside view. In this composition, Garber also employs perspective to juxtapose the beauty of nature with civilization as buildings are just visible across the river, through the curtain of trees in the foreground. There is a clear presence of vitality in this painting—an energy that is, to this day, perceivable the second one enters New Hope.
Nearing a century later, the sense of artistic inspiration and collaboration is still alive and well on the streets of New Hope and in the neighboring town of Lambertville, New Jersey. Art galleries and studios are as numerous and prevalent as restaurants and shops, and this thriving community continues to be a respite for artists and collectors. The distinctive semi-mountainous landscape flanking the Delaware River is visually compelling and reveals why this town was so significant to the artists of the New Hope School and their successors today.