Edward Willis Redfield & the Legacy of Centre Bridge

05/27/2015     News and Film

Freeman's is pleased to be offering two outstanding works by Pennsylvania Impressionist Edward Willis Redfield depicting scenes of of Centre Bridge in our upcoming auction American Art & Pennsylvania Impressionists.When Edward Willis Redfield and his family settled in the charming environs of Centre Bridge, Pennsylvania, on the banks of the Delaware River in 1898, he surely could not have known that in doing so he was laying the foundation for one of the great American Art colonies—the "New Hope School."As a plein air artist—one who paints outside in the elements, rather than in the studio—he soon became a familiar figure in the vicinity, trudging through the snow to set up a canvas (often by strapping it to a tree), energetically capturing the landscape in front of him with his vigorously bold brushwork and rich impasto. Redfield 's charismatic presence soon attracted many other artists to the area, including George Sotter, Fern Coppedge, John Folinsbee, Daniel Garber, Harry Leith-Ross, and Kenneth Nunamaker, many of whom were directly influenced either by Redfield 's work or his methods. Collectively, these artists became known as the “Pennsylvania Impressionists” and their work, Redfield 's in particular, was celebrated as the embodiment of a uniquely American vision. At the time, the noted painter and critic, Guy Pene du Bois, described it as “our first truly national expression.”The town of Centre Bridge (the Anglicized spelling is traditional) was integral to both Redfield 's life and practice. The two paintings to be offered in Freeman 's June 7th auction American Art & Pennsylvania Impressionists depict views of the town, but from different times in its history. In The Road to Centre Bridge, one can see the eponymous original wooden bridge in the distance. During a thunderstorm on the night of July 22, 1923, lightning struck the 112 year-old bridge causing it to ignite. Redfield was driving home with his family when he saw the blaze in the distance. Fearing that it was his house, on fire, he sped homewards only to realize—presumably with a measure of relief—that it was, in fact, the adjacent bridge. Redfield and his family gathered together with many other spectators including his fellow artist, William Lathrop, on the river bank to witness the inferno and the firefighters ' frantic efforts to extinguish it. Redfield later remarked, “Lathrop said it was a pity it couldn 't be painted. So I took out an envelope and made some notes and painted all the next day. The following day, I painted it again.” This painting, The Fire at Centre Bridge, believed to be one of the only ones created entirely in his studio from memory, is widely considered to be one of his best and is a highlight of the collection in the Michener Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where it was presented as a partial gift by the Laurent Redfield family.Centre Bridge, an evocative winter scene, depicts the current bridge which was completed in 1926 and built upon the remaining piers and abutments of the original. Both paintings come with an impeccable provenance. The Road to Centre Bridge formed part of the artist 's estate and was chosen by his son, Laurent, following a drawing of lots within the family to determine ownership. Centre Bridge was subsequently acquired by Laurent 's wife, Dorothy, and each work has since descended through the family to the current owners, the artist 's great grand-children. As one present family member pointed out, their grandmother at one time had paintings of “the bridge before, during, and after the fire.” Together, these works are a splendid testament to the artist 's creative powers and his love of the Centre Bridge area which he called his home.Exhibition for our June 7 auction American Art & Pennsylvania Impressionists opens to the public at 10am on June 3. We invite you to join us at 1808 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia to view these works, as well as those by Redfield's New Hope colleagues including Coppedge, Garber, Sotter and more.Edward Willis Redfield's The Road to Centre Bridge sold for $233,000 in the June 7 auction American Art & Pennsylvania Impressionists