The New Hope Impressionists Blaze the Trail [1]

Posted: Wednesday, 09/18/2019 — BucksRelo.com   Blog Home   Contact

Debra Granite, Realtor, BucksRelo.com

 

Image: William Lathrop, Ely's Bridge, oil on canvas, unknown date.
Part of the Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.

 

Historians note that two real estate transactions—concerning the same property—probably sparked the creation of the New Hope arts colony. In 1894, a young Philadelphia surgeon purchased the Phillip’s Mill (located on present‑day River Road) but, unable to spend much time there, decided to rent the property to a friend, the painter William Lathrop. Lathrop and his wife purchased a portion of the mill property the following year and soon began hosting Sunday afternoon teas where artist friends gathered to discuss their work. At the Lathrops’ encouragement, many of these weekend guests ultimately settled nearby.

William Lathrop and his friends, most of whom were affiliated with the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA), had been working in a style known as Tonalism. As the group began experimenting with Impressionism, which emphasized en plein air (in the open air) painting directly from life, they found Solebury’s charming landscapes and old stone mills ideal subject matter for their pursuits.

In 1929, several of the local painters who came to be called the New Hope Impressionists or Pennsylvania Impressionists formed the Phillips Mill Community Association. There, they began holding the annual Phillip’s Mill art exhibitions that continue to this day. Known for boldly painted views of the Delaware River and the surrounding countryside, these artists soon achieved a regional (and, in some cases, national) reputation for their uniquely American take on the French Impressionist style. The most well-known members of the group were Lathrop, Edward W. Redfield and Daniel Garber, who each won awards for the work they exhibited at such institutions as PAFA, the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh and the National Academy of Design in New York. Another member of the group, William Francis Taylor, made a different type of impact: concerned about the effects of industrial pollution on the area, Taylor wrote about the need for conservation in a local publication, The Towpath, and founded one of the area’s first environmental organizations.

Viewed by art historians today as a notable group of regional painters, the New Hope Impressionists left behind a large, impressive body of work. Perhaps more importantly, they opened the door to successive generations of artists seeking a lifestyle rarely enjoyed outside a major city.

[1] Solebury Township Comprehensive Plan, 2014, www.soleburytwp.org, accessed September, 2019.

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Debra Granite, Realtor Keller Williams Real Estate, Doylestown, PA