Edward Willis Redfield 1869-1965

Road to the Village

  • 32 1/4 x 40 inches (81.9 x 101.6 cm)
  • Oil on canvas
  • Signed and dated lower left: E. W. Redfield. / 1908
  • 1908

Why We Love It

Of all the subjects Edward Willis Redfield painted, the winter landscape surrounding his Bucks County home was his favorite. He is famous for strapping his canvases to trees and painting large works “all in one go,” while bundled up in a heavy overcoat. This painting exemplifies the energy and physicality of Redfield’s style, particularly the vigorous brushwork and heavy impasto, which is typical of his best work.

The Value

Paintings by Edward Willis Redfield are the most widely recognized and revered of the plein air works we now refer to as Pennsylvania Impressionism. They are represented in major museum collections all over the country. Road to the Village was purchased directly from Redfield by the Cincinnati Museum Association, where it resided until it was deaccessioned in 1945. It is unlined, in mint condition, and in a period Arts and Crafts frame.

Artist Background

1869: Born in Bridgeville, Delaware; 1887-89: Attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts where he studied with Thomas Anshutz and Thomas Hovendon and became close friends with Robert Henri; 1889: Traveled to Paris, where he enrolled at the Academie Julian and studied with William Bouguereau and Tony Robert-Fleury; 1890-91: Traveled throughout France and to Venice, Italy with Robert Henri; 1891: Returned to the United States; 1898: Moved to Center Bridge, Pennsylvania, where he remained until his death. His presence in the area attracted many younger artists to the region, making it a nucleus for the American Impressionism movement; 1903: Began spending summers in Boothbay Harbor, Maine; 1965: Died at the age of 96 in Center Bridge, Pennsylvania.

Road to the Village from 1908 was clearly an important painting for Edward Redfield. The Cincinnati Museum Association purchased it directly from the artist in that year and then submitted it to an exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago.  The Museum also lent the work to the Panama Pacific Exhibition in 1915, where Redfield had an entire room devoted to his work to date.

Despite the painting’s large size, it is a quiet, almost contemplative work.  There are no visible people, just the markings of their presence in the houses and muddy grooves of the worn road.  The technical dexterity of Redfield’s brushwork is seen in full effect, yet it is less acrobatic here and more subtle.  Indeed, the painting is one of the artist’s most sophisticated compositions and successful executions.

As with all of his paintings, Redfield certainly completed Road to the Village in “one go,” meaning he painted the work in one 4 hour or 6 hour sitting without making any preparatory sketches. This direct to canvas method of painting served Redfield’s bold and muscular style well.  The surety with which he applies the paint in this work is masterful and looks forward to the apex of his mature style.

As one of Redfield’s most important paintings in terms of provenance and exhibition history, Road to the Village occupies a significant place not only in Redfield’s oeuvre but also in the historical continuum of American landscape painting.  It is truly an original work of art, devoid of any decorative sentimentality, that captures what was exceptional about Redfield as an artist and his vision for American landscape painting.