Edward Redfield painted The Village Store several years after settling with his family in the small, picturesque town of New Hope, Pennsylvania. In the present painting, Redfield captures the beauty of the winter landscape and its inhabitants with a dashing style and skillful treatment of light and color that are the hallmarks of his celebrated technique.
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 Anshutz, Redfield traveled to Paris to receive further training at the Académie Julian. It was during these years that Redfield traveled to the French countryside accompanied by Robert Henri, a 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 and shadow and their interplay among the landscape. It is this immediacy 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 The Village Store captures the essence of a quiet winter day in the country. Sun from the clear blue sky reflects 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 a cold winter day. He revisited the subject often throughout his career and snow scenes make up a great proportion of his work.
Underscoring the essence of a spontaneous landscape is a thoughtfully rendered work of art. The Village Store is of a familiar compositional style for Redfield, that of a road winding into the picture's middle ground, occupied by a horse-drawn sleigh or carriage. In the present work, the horse-drawn traveling store rests in the center of the work, surrounded by a group of locals perusing the seller's wares. The direction of the wagon clearly steers away from the foreground, as evidenced by its fresh tracks in the snow. The sweep of the painting backwards is accentuated by the methodical diagonals evident in the wooden fence at left and the yellow house at right. The confluence of these technical devices gives the painting a strong sense of depth.
Fellow American artist and contemporary Guy Pène du Bois states 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) Through his use of dynamic brushstroke and his brilliant compositional devices, The Village Store embodies the artist's interpretation of the energy and the beauty of early twentieth century America.
This painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Edward Redfield's work being compiled by Dr. Thomas Folk.