In his most successful Impressionist works such as Snow Storm--Limeport, Edward Willis Redfield portrays the beauty of the Pennsylvania winter landscape with a dashing style and skillful treatment of light and color that are the hallmarks of his celebrated technique.
Edward Willis Redfield's Impressionist canvases rank among the best produced by a group of Pennsylvania artists, popularly called the New Hope School. Like many of his contemporaries of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Redfield studied extensively at some of the finest art schools in the world. Following his training at The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts under Thomas Anschutz, Redfield traveled to Paris to receive further training at the Académie Julian in the late 1880s or early 90s. It was during these years that Redfield traveled to the French countryside accompanied by Robert Henri, an old friend from his days at The Pennsylvania Academy. There, in the forest of Fontainebleau he began painting en plein air.
Redfield generally painted his larger works in a single outdoor session, in order to capture the fleeting effects of sunlight, shadow, and their interplay among the trees, streams and hills. It is this immediacy of feeling that is Redfield's legacy. Remarks one author, "His paintings were done in the field and straight onto the canvas, and with great rapidity and force." (J.M.W. Fletcher, Edward Willis Redfield 1869-1965: An American Impressionist, His Paintings and the Man Behind the Palette, Lahaska, Pennsylvania, 1996, p. 1) Redfield's intentional use of muted colors in Snow Storm--Limeport captures the essence of a quiet winter day in the country. The sky glows a pale pink, reflecting on the expansive landscape of white below. Redfield successfully encapsulates the exact moment when a storm has passed and all is quiet.
Redfield employed this bold technique in all seasons, painting spring scenes blossoming with color, summer scenes bathed in warm sunlight and scenes of autumn rich with earth tones. In particular, however, Redfield received acclaim for his ability to paint with vigor the narrow tonal ranges and subtle light of winter woodland snow scenes, exhibiting a remarkable capacity to bring color and life to a cold winter day. He revisited the subject often throughout his career and snow scenes make up a great proportion of his work. As early as 1891, when Redfield was just 22 years old, a winter landscape by the artist was accepted at the Paris Salon, the representative body of nineteenth century French taste. This was an unquestionable boost to Redfield's then young career.
Underscoring the essence of a spontaneous landscape is a thoughtfully rendered work of art. Snow Storm--Limeport, is of a familiar compositional style for Redfield, that of a road winding into the picture's middle ground, often occupied by a horse-drawn sleigh or carriage, or strolling villagers. In the present work, one horse drawn sleigh leads a figure through the snow, away from the picture plane. The sweep of the painting backwards is accentuated by the methodical diagonals throughout. The path of the sleigh is echoed by the picket fence and trees at left, as well as by the winding tracks in the snow which the sleigh has left behind. The confluence of these technical devices gives the painting a strong sense of depth.
Fellow American artist and contemporary Guy Pène du Bois clearly spelled out Redfield's importance to American Art when he wrote in the July 1915 issue of Arts and Decoration, "The Pennsylvania School of landscape painters, whose leader is Edward W. Redfield, is our first truly national expression...It began under the influence of the technique of the French Impressionists. It has restricted itself patriotically to the painting of the typical American landscape." (as quoted in T. Folk, Edward Redfield, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 1987, p. 36) Limeport, a small Pennsylvania mill town which was flourishing around the turn of the twentieth century, typifies the kind of American landscape to which Pène du Bois refers.
As in Redfield's best works, Snow Storm--Limeport embodies, through his use of forceful, staccato brushstroke, the artist's interpretation of the energy and the beauty of early twentieth century America. At the same time, the work stands out as an enthusiastic example of Redfield's fascination with painting subtleties of a snowy landscape.
This painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Edward Redfield's work being compiled by Dr. Thomas Folk.