Walter Elmer Schofield 1867-1944

Frosty Morning

  • 30 x 26 inches (76.2 x 66 cm)
  • Oil on canvas
  • Signed lower left: Schofield
  • 1913

Why We Love It

Simply put, we believe this to be Schofield’s impressionist masterpiece. We have had a number of wonderful paintings by the artist, but this depiction of a chilly morning in Bucks County is awe-inspiring. The muted palette and serenity of the scene lie in counterpoint to the vigorous and confident brushwork. It is plein aire painting at its best.

The Value

“Frosty Morning” is unlined and in perfect condition. It is in a fine Stanford White design, period frame. This is an opportunity to own a top tier example of the artist’s work.

 

Artist Background

1867: Born in Philadelphia; 1886: Graduated from Central High School. Attended Swarthmore College for one year; c.1887: Traveled to San Antonio, Texas, where he produced a number of drawings that chronicled life out West; 1889: Enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He likely studied with Thomas Anshutz. Became friends with Robert Henri, John Sloan, William Glackens and Edward Redfield; 1892-95: Traveled to France. Enrolled at the Academie Julian, then moved on to Fountainbleau and Brittany; 1895: Returned to Philadelphia. Attended Henri’s weekly meetings at his studio; 1895-97: Returned to Europe. Traveled to England, France, Belgium, and Holland; 1897: Returned to Philadelphia. Began painting local snow scenes. Married Muriel Redmayne, a British citizen visiting Philadelphia; 1901: Moved to artist’s colony of St. Ives, which was noted for its plein air landscape painters. From this time forward, Schofield divided his time between England and the U.S. Awarded First Hallgarten Prize from the National Academy of Design; 1902: Visited Redfield’s home in Bucks County. Began painting bold, vigorous snow scenes directly from nature; 1915: Awarded medal of honor from Panama-Pacific International Exposition; 1920s: Began painting landscape in more vibrant and brilliant colors; 1930s: Produced series of images from American West; 1940s: Travel restrictions during World War II forced Schofield to remain in England for duration of war; 1944: Died.

Even though little is know about Walter Schofield’s time at PAFA from 1889 to 1892, it is reasonable to assume to that he took at least one class with Thomas Anshutz.  He certainly would have been affected by the pedagogical concentration on Realism at the Academy at that time.  Indeed, Tom Folk in Walter Elmer Schofield: Bold Impressionist states that the mixture of Impressionism and Realism apparent in Schofield’s landscape paintings stems from the “emphasis on Realism exerted by the Pennsylvania Academy in the teaching of Thomas Anshutz.” (Folk 14)  Thus, similar to such fellow students and friends as Robert Henri, Edward Redfield, and John Sloan, Schofield, too, applied the lessons he learned about Realism to the development of his own personal artistic idiom.

Schofield seems to have been instinctually attracted to the landscape. He was deeply affected by the Impressionist paintings he saw in Paris while studying at the Academie Julian. When he returned from Europe in 1895 he began attending Henri’s weekly studio visits, where his excitement for Impressionist technique was encouraged and where he partook in lively discussions about the future of American art.  It is unclear how influenced he was by these meetings and by his friendships with the other attendees.  Even Schofield once stated: “the influence of one’s friends, fellow painters, and artists is really a very important and difficult thing to assess.” (Folk 17)  Yet the importance of his relationship with Redfield, however unclear it was, remains an important factor in the development of his artistic style.

Like Redfield, Schofield painted en plein air without making preliminary sketches.  He, too, drew upon his keen powers of observation in his quest to honestly capture the look and feel of the landscape.  And he also sought to complete his paintings in one sitting; although, he was not as strict about adhering to this “rule” as Redfield was.   None of this is to say that Schofield’s paintings were merely derivative of Redfield’s.  On the contrary, Schofield’s mature style is quite different as are the locations he chose to paint.  He developed a great love for painting Pennsylvanian snow scenes of the area around Philadelphia.  However, he also painted the villages and landscapes of Cornwall, England, where he lived for half of the calendar year with his wife and family.  The other half, principally the winter months, he spent in Pennsylvania or traveling elsewhere.

Perhaps one of Schofield’s best paintings, Frosty Morning from 1913 not only demonstrates the artist’s consummate skill but it also provides a window to his extraordinary working method.  Painted outdoors on a cold winter day, the work’s limited palette of whites, grays, and browns effectively captures the distinctive look of the season.  Schofield chooses not to beautify the scene.  In fact the work-a-day quality of landscape speaks to his interest in Realism, while the deft brushwork and exceptional light both highlight his mastery of impressionist technique.  The sense of immersion that accompanies the landscape is best understood in the words of the artist himself: “ The landscape painter is of necessity and outdoors man . . . For vitality and convincing quality only come to the man who serves, not in the studio, but out in the open where even the things he fights against strengthen him, because you see, nature is always vital, even in her implicit moods and never denies a vision to the real love.” (Folk 20)