James A. Michener Art Museum
photo by Jeff Hurwitz
Edward Redfield at Michener Art Museum
An unveiling of "The Burning of Center Bridge," by Edward Redfield, one of the most dynamic paintings produced by the famous Pennsylvania Impressionist, will kick off the 10th Anniversary celebration of the James A. Michener Art Museum.
Left: The Burning of Center Bridge, 1928, oil on canvas, James A. Michener Art Museum.
The painting will be the highlight of the exhibition, "A Legacy Preserved: The First Decade of Collecting at the Michener Art Museum," which opened Sept. 26, 1998 and runs through March 7, 1999.
Edward Willis Redfield was one of the leaders of Bucks County's nationally known group of visual artists who lived and worked in the New Hope area beginning in the early 1900's. This group was best known for the school of landscape painting they founded called Pennsylvania Impressionism. Redfield, along with Daniel Garber, is considered one of the leading artists of the group, receiving dozens of major awards. His paintings are found in the collections of many of the most important museums in America.
On Sunday, July 22, 1923, lightning struck the wood-covered, 112-year-old Center Bridge, located just north of New Hope, PA, very close to Redfield's home. Redfield, his son Laurent, and daughter-in-law Dorothy, were returning home from a visit to painter Joseph Pearson in Huntingdon Valley, PA. When they approached Center Bridge, they saw smoke and Redfield feared his house was on fire. He rushed home and found it was not his house that was on fire, but the nearby covered bridge. He gathered his family and went to watch.
There, Redfield joined another Pennsylvania landscape painter, William Lathrop, to view the burning bridge from the river bank as firemen feverishly attempted to extinguish the blaze. Redfield later remarked, "Lathrop said it was a pity it couldn't be painted. So I took out an envelope and made some notes and painted all the next day. The following day, I painted it again."
"The Burning of Center Bridge," acquired this year by the James A. Michener Art Museum, is one of two resulting versions by Redfield. It is an unusual work for him, as it is his only known painting done from memory; most of his other works were landscapes done on-site in one sitting. The painting is a significant addition to the collection because it documents a specific event in Bucks County history.
Bruce Katsiff, director of the museum, views "The Burning of Center Bridge" as Redfield's most important painting. Says Katsiff, "our philosophy is not just to have any Redfield painting, but to have the best Redfield painting available." After close to a year of discussion, the Laurent Redfield family and the museum came to an agreement on the painting. According to Katsiff, the family wanted to give something special back to the community and made a partial gift towards the acquisition. Funds for the purchase of "The Burning of Center Bridge" were secured by State Senator Joe Conti with a gift from Joseph and Anne Gardocki.
See another painting by Redfield at the Woodmere Art Museum.
For further biographical information on selected artists cited in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.
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