Daniel Garber's poetic sensibility as a painter has always ranked him among the most celebrated artists of the New Hope School. His mastery of light and color, as well as his finely conceived compositions combine with a true sensitivity to American subject matter. These qualities are evident in River Bend, one of Garber's most important canvases from the period of his career when he had achieved critical success as an Impressionist painter of the Pennsylvania landscape.
In River Bend Garber composes a canvas that luxuriates in the breathtaking autumnal color found in the area around New Hope, Pennsylvania and the Delaware River. A master of color, Garber has blended brilliant complimentary hues of blue, orange and crimson, creating a shimmering backdrop for a lone tree that stands as a sentinel in the foreground. The surface of the river in the middle distance at first appears motionless, yet the subtle gradations of color and reflected light evoke a sense of transition and the passage of time.
Kathleen Foster has written, "Garber's dedication to outdoor study from the motif became the foundation of his method. His buggy and later his 'trusty light truck, canvases, easel and large palette strapped to the truck sides were familiar to folk up and down the valley.' As Garber roamed in search of material, fortified with peanut butter sandwiches, he would sometimes spend all day working outdoors, usually on the same canvas. Because he liked to work directly, without preparatory drawings, Garber needed the constant presence of the motif during most of the execution of the painting. After interviewing Garber, a journalist wrote in 1923, 'I want to paint things as I see them... and I don't see them in blotches... I have too much respect for the trees that I paint, and their true forms, to make something out of them that I do not feel exists in them.' With such commentary, Garber allied himself firmly with the realists of the early twentieth century..." (Daniel Garber, The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1980, pp. 27)
"Garber's idealizing sensibility always coexisted with his realist approach, and the unique effects produced by his balance of the two impulses had been detected in his paintings from the very beginning of his career. Commenting on one of Garber's windy landscapes of about 1904, a viewer praised its 'fidelity' and also remarked that 'Somehow it rested me more than anything else I have seen for a long time. He seems to have a high and true concept of the beautiful.' This search for the restful and the beautiful within the 'plain facts' of his own life motivated all of Garber's best work, and transformed his homeliest subjects 'into something serene and golden.' " (Daniel Garber, p. 30)
This painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonn being prepared by Hollis Taggart and Carl Jorgensen in cooperation with the Garber family. The present work, executed in November-December 1928 on the Delaware River in Lumberville, Pennsylvania, is recorded in the Artist's Record Book I, page 40, lines 13-17.