Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Mark W. Sullivan

Mark W. Sullivan earned a Ph. D. in Art History from Bryn Mawr College and specializes in American art and architecture. He has just published Picturing Thoreau: Henry David Thoreau in American Visual Culture (Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2015), and is writing a book on Thomas Anshutz and Hugh Breckenridge, whose Darby School of Art in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, was an important factor in the development of Pennsylvania Impressionism and American modernist painting.

Orchard Window (The)

Painted in 1918 by Philadelphia artist Daniel Garber (1880-1958), The Orchard Window depicts the interior of Garber’s studio in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and features his 12-year-old daughter Tanis sitting in a sun-dappled window seat, reading a book. This large oil painting on canvas has been highly regarded as a prime example of Pennsylvania Impressionism, a variation on the French Impressionism of Claude Monet (1840-1926) and Camille Pissarro (1830-1903).

[caption id="attachment_32979" align="alignright" width="296"] The idyllic setting and tone of The Orchard Window (1918), projected a sense of calm at a time of world war, racial tensions, and a flu pandemic. (Philadelphia Museum of Art)[/caption]

The Orchard Window is one of Garber's masterpieces, dating from a period when the artist reached the height of his popularity. In this painting, Garber combined the atmospheric concerns of impressionism with the sharp, careful drawing typical of all graduates of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. By flattening out the picture plane in the background (in other words, by making the view out the window almost two-dimensional), he also added a decorative quality that was new to his work at the time.

[caption id="attachment_33076" align="alignright" width="300"] Daniel Garber received his training in impressionism at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, depicted in this early 1900s postcard. (Library Company of Philadelphia)[/caption]

Born and raised in Indiana, after a brief period of study at the Art Academy of Cincinnati Garber moved to Philadelphia and enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. There, and at the Darby School of Art, a summer school in nearby Darby and Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, he received training from artists such as Thomas Anshutz (1851-1912) and Hugh Breckenridge (1870-1937). In 1905, he won the academy’s coveted Cresson Scholarship, which enabled him to travel and study in Europe for two years. In Europe, he encountered French Impressionism, which inspired him to become one of America’s leading artists working in the impressionist mode.

Garber returned to the United States in 1907 and settled with his wife, Mary, in Lumberville, a village just north of New Hope, Pennsylvania. He became a longtime leader, along with Edward Redfield (1869-1965), of the artist colony that sprang up in the New Hope area in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Garber’s studio at Cuttalossa Farm served as the setting for many paintings of his daughter Tanis, with whom he was very close. He loved the sunlight that came in through his studio window and the flower garden that stood just behind his studio. He took a great deal of pride in, and solace from, his home in the country, as can be seen vividly in The Orchard Window.

[caption id="attachment_32978" align="alignright" width="205"] Daniel Garber had close ties with many renowned Philadelphia art institutions throughout his life. Photographed here circa 1900, the artist also played a large role in the creation of the Pennsylvania Impressionism movement during the early twentieth century. (Smithsonian, Archives of American Art)[/caption]

Garber for many years also had a home on Green Street in Philadelphia, where he lived during the academic year until about 1926. He began a long and successful career as a teacher, first at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (later Moore College of Art and Design), and then at the Pennsylvania Academy. The critical and public responses to The Orchard Window illustrate the changing tides of Garber’s critical fortunes over the next century. The oil won the Temple Gold Medal for best painting at the 1919 annual exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy, and magazine and newspaper reviewers immediately touted the work as very “American.” According to Gardner Teall (1876-1956), writing in 1921, “it reveals the spirit of American art, a thing one sees and feels, but which perhaps, is not so easy to define.” By 1930, however, critics were questioning whether it was possible to speak of any country as having a unique, instantly identifiable style of oil painting. Garber’s representational art gradually fell out of favor during the second and third quarters of the century, with the rise of abstract art.

[caption id="attachment_32982" align="alignright" width="300"] The Philadelphia Museum of Art, shown here in 1928, featured Daniel Garber’s The Orchard Window in its 1976 bicentennial exhibition, Philadelphia: Three Centuries of American Art, possibly saving his work from obscurity. (Historical Society of Pennsylvania)[/caption] [caption id="attachment_32977" align="alignright" width="300"] Completed just one year before The Orchard Window, Daniel Garber’s Quarry (1917) showcases the techniques of Pennsylvania Impressionism, such as focusing on an American landscape. (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts)[/caption]

Garber’s work had almost been forgotten by 1976, when the Philadelphia Museum of Art included The Orchard Window in its Bicentennial exhibition of American art. The public, however, responded very enthusiastically to The Orchard Window at that exhibition, which in part motivated a 1980 Garber retrospective at the Pennsylvania Academy. This exhibition marked the centennial of the artist’s birth (as well as the 175th anniversary of the founding of the academy). More exhibitions of Garber’s works followed, several books and catalogues appeared, and his works earned higher and higher prices at auction. The reestablishment of his reputation, and that of his fellow New Hope School painters Edward Redfield (1869-1965) and Walter Schofield (1867-1944), drew in part from the nationalism surrounding the Bicentennial as well as from the realization, in many circles, that representational art was just as valid and important as nonrepresentational art. The work of Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), for instance, and that of his fellow Brandywine School artists, became perceived as serious creative art by critics who had once panned it as "mere" illustration.

By the early twenty-first century, art historians regarded Garber as one of the Philadelphia area’s most important contributors to the history of American art. The Orchard Window became so popular that it appeared on jigsaw puzzles, coffee cups, placemats, and even advertisements for the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

In 1918, The Orchard Window represented a moment of calm to viewers who were wrestling with World War I and many other serious issues, among them racial tension and the beginnings of a flu pandemic that would kill at least 675,000 Americans. The painting continued to function in that manner in later years, bringing respite to viewers feeling unsettled by the pace of twentieth- and twentieth-first century life.

Mark Sullivan, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Art History at Villanova University. His recent publications include Picturing Thoreau: Henry David Thoreau in American Visual Culture (Lexington Books, 2015), and two essays for The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia:  “The Red Rose Girls” and “Pennsylvania Impressionism.”

Red Rose Girls

Three young artists who took up residence at the old Red Rose Inn in Villanova, Pennsylvania, in the first decade of the twentieth century helped make Philadelphia a national leader in book and magazine illustration. They also successfully challenged the idea that only men could be “serious” and influential professional artists.

[caption id="attachment_17602" align="alignright" width="306"]An illustration by one of the Red Rose Girls, Elizabeth Shippen Green, depicts the artists on the grounds of the Red Rose Inn. (Library of Congress) An illustration by one of the Red Rose Girls, Elizabeth Shippen Green, depicts the artists and friends on the grounds of the Red Rose Inn. (Library of Congress)[/caption]

The “Red Rose Girls”—Jessie Willcox Smith (1863-1935), Elizabeth Shippen Green (1871-1954), and Violet Oakley (1874-1961)—met while students of the famous illustrator Howard Pyle (1853-1911). They caused a stir in that era by promising to not marry and to live together for life as partners in what they called the “COGS family.” “C” stood for Henrietta Cozens (ca. 1862-1940), a fourth person who joined the group to serve as housekeeper and gardener; “O” stood for Oakley; “G” for Green; and “S” for Smith.

Rumors circulated that the group’s living arrangements were “inappropriate,” but they ignored such commentary. Their substitute for traditional family life resembled the American settlement movement of the same era, in which women banded together (as at Hull House in Chicago) in order to work for various social causes and to support one another as they carved out new lifestyles at a time when most women married at a young age and stepped away from the public sphere. The group eventually disbanded when Green married in 1911, but they lived happily at the Red Rose Inn from 1901 to 1906, and then at their estate called “Cogslea” in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia from 1906 to 1911.

Oakley Murals in Capitol

[caption id="attachment_17601" align="alignright" width="300"]Violet Oakley's work included paintings for the Pennsylvania State Capitol, including this example reproduced in a supplement to the Public Ledger in 1913. (Philadelphia Museum of Art) Violet Oakley's work included paintings for the Pennsylvania State Capitol, including this example reproduced in a supplement to the Public Ledger in 1913. (Philadelphia Museum of Art)[/caption]

Oakley began as an illustrator, but she soon branched out into stained glass window design and mural painting. She became famous for a set of murals done between 1902 and 1906 in the Governor’s Reception Room at the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg, for which she was awarded a gold medal by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1905. Other large mural projects soon presented themselves, including one in the Senate Chamber of the Capitol (1911-20) and another in the Supreme Court Chamber of the same building (1917-27). Some of her small, later murals can be seen at the Woodmere Art Museum and in the Henry Library at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, both in Philadelphia. Oakley became one of the first women to teach at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where she was an instructor from 1913 to 1917.

[caption id="attachment_17603" align="alignright" width="223"]Jessie Willcox Smith, one of the most popular book and magazine illustrators of the twentieth century, created this poster encouraging patriotism on the home front during World War I. (Library Company of Philadelphia) Jessie Willcox Smith created this poster encouraging patriotism on the home front during World War I. (Library Company of Philadelphia)[/caption]

Jessie Willcox Smith was one of the most popular book and magazine illustrators of the twentieth century. She illustrated such classics as Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies (published in 1863), Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885), and Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (1868-69). Her work also filled the pages of magazines such as Ladies’ Home Journal and Collier’s Magazine. She did a color cover illustration for each issue of Good Housekeeping for fifteen consecutive years, and according to one account, did at least 450 illustrations for various periodicals during a career that lasted from 1888 to 1932. In her later years, Smith also became notable as a portraitist of Philadelphia’s social elite.

Elizabeth Shippen Green was not as prolific as Smith, but her illustrations were equally sought after. Her work appeared regularly in publications such as Harper’s Monthly Magazine and the Philadelphia Public Ledger; and she provided illustrations for works such as Mabel Humphrey’s The Book of the Child (1903) and Annie Hamilton Donnell’s Rebecca Mary (1905).

The artistic style of the “Red Rose Girls” might be characterized as one of “romantic realism.” Like their teacher Howard Pyle, all three artists used photography as a visual aid, and all three did detailed research whenever they delved into historical subjects. Like Pyle, all three also heightened the emotional content of their work with effective use of bright colors, strong facial expressions, and dramatic figural poses. The popularity of this style waned somewhat in high art circles as the twentieth century progressed and abstract art became more fashionable. However, popular interest in their work persisted into the twenty-first century.

The achievements of the “Red Rose Girls” went far beyond the realm of art and far beyond the confines of the Philadelphia region. As pioneers of expanded options for women in the early twentieth century, they exerted a wide influence on American art and society.

Mark W. Sullivan earned a Ph.D. in the History of Art at Bryn Mawr College. He is an associate professor of art history, and the director of the Art History Program at Villanova University. He has written extensively on American art, his latest book being Picturing Thoreau: Henry David Thoreau in American Visual Culture (Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2015).

Pennsylvania Impressionism

[caption id="attachment_16395" align="aligncenter" width="562"]Young My House in Winter Charles Morris Young’s painting of his home illustrates the technical and aesthetic techniques of the Pennsylvania Impressionists. (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts)[/caption]

Pennsylvania Impressionist painting flourished in eastern Pennsylvania in the first half of the twentieth century. Often referred to as the “New Hope School” because artists in Bucks County produced the best-known works, the style was also practiced vigorously in Montgomery, Chester, Delaware, and Lehigh Counties, and key artists of the movement taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. In comparison to the impressionism being practiced in other parts of the United States, Pennsylvania Impressionism was characterized by its thick brushwork and its almost single-minded focus on landscape painting.

Pennsylvania Impressionism began with the settlement of the painters William Langson Lathrop (1859-1938) and Edward Redfield (1869-1965) in the picturesque village of New Hope, along the banks of the Delaware River, in 1898. Within a few years, these two men had gathered around themselves a group of artists who sought to combine the innovations of the French Impressionists, especially their interest in capturing light and plein-air painting—or painting outdoors—and their focus on the themes of everyday modern life, with an interest in American subject matter. Walter Elmer Schofield (1867-1944), George Sotter (1879-1953), and Henry Snell (1858-1943) visited Lathrop and Redfield in New Hope as early as 1902; and Daniel Garber (1880-1958) bought a house in Lumberville, just north of New Hope, in 1907, having discovered the property with the help of Will and Annie Lathrop. These artists were inspired by the relatively unspoiled landscape of Bucks County. They painted this section of the Delaware River Valley in all weather and in all seasons, each in his own unique way, but they were especially fond of depicting the area as it looked in winter.

[caption id="attachment_16402" align="alignright" width="300"]John Folinsbee was known among the New Hope school for painting winter scenes at night. (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts)  John Folinsbee was known among the New Hope school for painting winter scenes at night. (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts)[/caption]

By 1915, when the New Hope art colony was at the height of its fame, Garber and Lathrop were nationally famous as teachers. Redfield’s habit of lashing a canvas to a tree during a winter storm, or of standing in knee-deep snow while he completed a canvas at one go became the stuff of legends. Garber and Lathrop received gold medals at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of that year in San Francisco, and Redfield was given an entire room at the same exhibition, in which he exhibited 21 paintings. By that time, the group had come to include such luminaries as Robert Spencer (1879-1931), Rae Sloan Bredin (1881-1933), Fern Coppedge (1883-1951), Mary Elizabeth Price (1877-1965), John Folinsbee (1892-1972), and Harry Leith-Ross (1886-1973). This group of painters expanded the repertoire of the New Hope School by exploring brighter colors—as Coppedge did­­—and by delving into nighttime scenes—as did Folinsbee—and Spencer’s views of factories and tenement buildings.

The Darby School of Art

Pennsylvania Impressionism was also practiced seriously in the early twentieth century at Fort Washington, for instance, between 1900 and 1918. Thomas Anshutz and Hugh Henry Breckenridge (1870-1937) ran a summer art program called the Darby School of Art, which specialized in landscape painting in the impressionist mode. One of the Darby School’s first students was Daniel Garber. Another student was Maude Drein Bryant (1880-1946), who went on to become a key figure in the “Philadelphia Ten,” a powerful group of women artists who exhibited together from 1917 to 1945. Bryant eventually settled in Hendricks, Pennsylvania, in Upper Salford Township, and spread an appreciation for impressionism throughout upper Montgomery County.

[caption id="attachment_16396" align="alignright" width="300"]Quaint street Walter Emerson Baum Walter Emerson Baum painted vibrancy into the store fronts of Allentown’s main street. (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts)[/caption]

Pennsylvania Impressionism also thrived in Lehigh County, thanks to the efforts of Walter Emerson Baum (1884-1956), a Bucks County native who eventually founded the Allentown Art Museum and the Baum School of Art in Allentown. And Chester County became a locus of Pennsylvania Impressionism, too, when the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts set up its country school in Chester Springs, in 1917. Daniel Garber taught at Chester Springs, and some of the artists who came under his influence there included Mildred Bunting Miller (1892-1964), Grace M. Green (1904-1978), and Charles Morris Young (1869-1964). These artists worked in a style that often approached Fauvism, with its emphasis on bright and sometimes arbitrary color, but they stayed true to the Pennsylvania Impressionist preference for landscape paintings done with the same thick brushwork favored by the founders of the movement.  

The work of the Pennsylvania impressionists gradually went out of fashion in the 1930s and 1940s, giving way to modernist styles such as abstraction and cubism. It has regained popularity among collectors in recent decades, and their work has been the subject of a number of museum exhibitions and scholarly studies in the last few years. The exhibition entitled “Pennsylvania Impressionism,” which was held at the Michener Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, in 2002 was accompanied by a catalog containing groundbreaking essays by Brian Peterson, William Gerdts, and Sylvia Yount.

Pennsylvania Impressionism tends to be more “American” than other branches of American Impressionism, partly because it celebrated the American landscape so vigorously, and partly because it always retained the careful draftsmanship that most of its practitioners had learned at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. It was a hybrid of French and American ideas, and not a wholesale adoption of European ideas—as Boston and New York Impressionism were. Pennsylvania Impressionism helped Americans to become familiar with, in a gradual way, the many new artistic ideas that were coming from Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Mark W. Sullivan earned a Ph. D. in Art History from Bryn Mawr College and specializes in American art and architecture. He has just published Picturing Thoreau: Henry David Thoreau in American Visual Culture (Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2015), and is writing a book on Thomas Anshutz and Hugh Breckenridge, whose Darby School of Art in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, was an important factor in the development of Pennsylvania Impressionism and American modernist painting.

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