Kenneth Nunamaker 1890-1957

River Road, Autumn

  • 22 x 24 inches (55.9 x 61 cm)
  • Oil on canvas
  • Signed lower right: K. Nunamaker
  • c. 1925

Why We Love It

Subtlety is rarely a hallmark of New Hope paintings. Bold energetic brushwork is the more common denominator. River Road, Autumn by Kenneth Nunamaker, however, has a quiet, atmospheric serenity that sets it apart. The brushwork is still distinctively New Hope, but the palette is soft, imparting a sense of the coming winter.

The Value

A quintessential New Hope School scene, executed with restraint, this work is in unlined, perfect condition. It is in a fine Arts and Crafts period frame and is a great example of the genre.

Artist Background

1890: Born in Akron, Ohio; 1907: Went West to work as a cattle puncher to support himself; c.1911: Returned to Akron and began work at an advertising agency; 1914: Worked at Akron Engraving Company. Began sketching in free time; 1918: Moved to Philadelphia to take a job as an art director for Hoedt Studios; 1923: Bought a home in Center Bridge, Pennsylvania (New Hope). Edward Redfield lived and painted nearby and became a mentor to Nunamaker. He also befriended Daniel Garber. Began exhibiting paintings; 1945: Left Hoedt Studios and opened Nunamaker Studio, where he worked with his artist son, Alfred, until 1957; 1957: Died.

Kenneth Nunamaker never took a formal art lesson.  His “training” began during his travels out West as a young man, where he painted in his spare time.  It continued informally throughout his career in commercial art, as he took sketching and painting excursions in the countryside.  He said he acquired “the rudiments of design, form, color, and composition in the hard schools of commercial art studios.” But despite this experience the artist’s strongest artistic foundations came from a direct observation of nature.  He often spoke of translating the landscape around him into shapes on the canvas.

Nunamaker moved to Philadelphia and not long after bought a home along the Delaware River at Center Bride.  There he met Edward Redfield, a guiding force behind the New Hope School of painting, who painted nearby.  Redfield mentored Nunamaker, meeting with him weekly and reviewing his work.  Nunamaker also befriended Daniel Garber and several other artists affiliated with the New Hope School, and soon became a prominent member of the artists’ community.  Among this group and to most of the people who knew him Nunamaker was beloved.

In River Road, Autumn the artist’s direct observation of nature is apparent in his mastery of light and shadow.   The way he translates the shapes of nature onto the canvas creates a composition that is at once balanced and fluid.  He builds the landscape with color and masterfully creates depth with little detail. River Road also captures the magic of a familiar place.   Important to the New Hope School was the desire to paint the bucolic landscape of Bucks County in a way that spoke to the artist’s intimate knowledge of the area.  Nunamaker’s active engagement with the landscape is revealed not only in his choice of subject matter but also in the way he painted it.