Edward Redfield's Impressionist canvases rank among the greatest of the New Hope School. Their views of the Delaware River basin and elsewhere tapped a well of national pride that contemporary critics sought out in American art. One of these critics was fellow American artist and contemporary, Guy Péne du Bois who wrote in the July 1915 issue of Arts and Decoration that "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 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)
Born in Delaware, Edward Redfield, like many of his contemporaries, received artistic training both at home and abroad. After his studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1887 to 1889, Redfield departed for Europe to receive further training at the Académie Julian. It was during these years that he traveled to the French countryside accompanied by Robert Henri, an old friend from the Pennsylvania Academy. There, in the forest of Fountainebleu, Redfield began painting en plein air, commencing a lifelong preference for painting directly on canvas out of doors.
Upon returning to the States in 1893, Redfield adopted this plein air tradition in his renderings of the rich and varied landscapes of the Northeast. He generally painted his works in a single outdoor session, in order to capture the fleeting effects of sunlight and shadow and their interplay within the landscape. It is this sense of immediacy and vigor that is Redfield's artistic legacy. Rendered in bold, energetic brushstrokes, Spring in the Harbor exemplifies the expressive plein air style for which Edward Redfield is best known. As was noted by C. Powell Minnigerode, a business associate of Redfield, "He paints with incredible rapidity and usually finishes the picture in a few hours of uninterrupted and intensive work, or, as the artist expresses it, 'in one shot.'...He contends that, as nature is undergoing constant change every hour of the day, he cannot truthfully interpret a landscape without being able to record these fleeting changes as they occur." (J.M.W. Fletcher, Edward Willis Redfield: An American Impressionist, Lahaska, Pennsylvania, 1996, p. 32)
As early as 1903 Redfield and his wife began spending summers in Boothbay Harbor and Monhegan Island, Maine. In the summer of 1903 Robert Henri and his wife joined the Redfields in Maine for the summer, and Henri noted the impression made by Redfield on the Monhegan Islanders, "slinging the paint over big canvases, astounding the natives and astounding the local artists with his rapidity as well as his results..." (B. Perlman, ed., Revolutionary Realism: The Letters of John Sloan and Robert Henri, Princeton, New Jersey, 1996, p. 74) In the Maine landscape Redfield found inspiration in "the power of the sea and the work of people in relation to it." (C. Kimmerle, "Edward W. Redfield," in American Art Review, vol. XVI, no. 4, August 2004, p. 105)
With Spring in the Harbor, one of Redfield's most impressive views of the Maine coast, Redfield builds up his surface with multiple layers of thick pigment, creating a rich impasto that is textured and dimensional. The lively and activated brushstrokes, which are the hallmark of the artist's style, create a dynamic cross-hatching effect and a pattern of color and motion that bring the scene to life. In the foreground, rugged, weather-worn lobster traps and a rocky shore provide a dynamic contrast to the cool, horizontal brushstrokes of water and a sense of spatial recession to a far shore. With his dashing Impressionist technique, Redfield captures a specific season and time of day, and adapts the lessons of his European training to a purely American scene.
This painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Edward Redfield's work being compiled by Dr. Thomas Folk.