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Woodmere Art Museum to present major retrospective of landscape painter Walter Elmer Schofield
Walter Elmer Schofield, Morning Tide. Photo: Courtesy of Woodmere Art Museum.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- Woodmere Art Museum’s Schofield: International Impressionist is the most ambitious exhibition mounted to-date of the work of renowned landscape painter Walter Elmer Schofield (1866-1944). More than 60 paintings by Schofield are brought together for the first time, lent from notable private and public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Philadelphia School District, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, among many others, for a major critical re-evaluation of the Philadelphia-born Impressionist artist in the broader context of European and American art. The exhibition is on view September 18, 2014 – January 25, 2015.

Schofield: International Impressionist showcases the range of Schofield’s work, from his earliest known paintings of European harbor towns, to his celebrated Pennsylvania landscapes, to more freely composed images of Arizona and California in the 1930s. His works were among the great prize-winning paintings of their time, sought after by world-class museums and private collectors. The exhibition establishes the chronological trajectory of his career and offers a view of his achievements in the context of his participation in American Impressionism and twentieth-century realism.

“This retrospective offers a timely evaluation of one of the most significant figures in American art,” says William R. Valerio, the Patricia Van Burgh Allison Director and CEO of Woodmere. ”Although perhaps best known as a Pennsylvania Impressionist, his work defies regional categorization, as Schofield worked as much in Europe as America. The title ‘Schofield: International Impressionist’ draws attention to the broad range of the artist’s interests and his commitment to conveying a distinct sense of place, whether depicting the changing Philadelphia landscape of his time, a French village, or an ancient Cornish harbor.”

Schofield was known as an enthusiastic outdoorsman who painted in nature, even in the bitter winter weather, to produce his famous “snowscapes.” Many early paintings depict the changing contemporary riverfront, especially the Schuylkill River, at the dawn of the Industrial Age. Schofield served in the British army in World War I, participating in the Battle of the Somme and other significant battles. The experience of the war changed his outlook on life and art; thereafter he focused on “eternal” subjects such as the dramatic cliffs of Cornwall, unpeopled landscapes, and natural places untouched by modernity and industrialization. Throughout his career, he employed a bold technique and a vibrant color palette.

Born in Philadelphia, Schofield attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and built lasting friendships and professional relationships with Ashcan School painters Robert Henri, William Glackens and John Sloan. In 1899 he moved to England with his young family, spending summers with them in Cornwall and living in the United States from fall through spring. Beginning in the 1920s, he resided with his brother, businessman Albert Schofield, on West Moreland Avenue in Chestnut Hill and painted many of his most famous winter landscapes on the nearby Wissahickon Creek.

His ties to Woodmere Art Museum carried through to his death in 1944, when the museum’s first executive director, his friend the artist Edith Emerson, mounted a memorial exhibition of Schofield’s work the following year. Five important works by Schofield — March Snow (1906), Hill Country (c. 1913), Morning Tide–Coast of Cornwall (c. 1920), Trenwith–Cornish Farm (by 1932), and Morning Light, Tujunga (1934) — are part of Woodmere’s permanent collection.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue featuring a critical discussion of the artist’s work and career by James D. W. Church, great-grandson of Schofield; Therese Dolan, professor of art history at Tyler School of Art, Temple University; Thomas Folk, faculty at New York School of Interior Design and the Appraisal Studies Program, New York University, and author of Walter Elmer Schofield: Bold Impressionist (Brandywine River Museum, 1983); Kathleen A. Foster, The Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Senior Curator of American Art and Director of the Center for American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Valerie Livingston, professor emerita at Susquehanna University, historian of American art and architecture, founding director of the Lore Degenstein Gallery at Susquehanna University, and author of W. Elmer Schofield: Proud Painter of Modest Lands (Moravian College, 1988); Rachel McCay, Assistant Curator at Woodmere Art Museum; Brian Peterson, Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest Chief Curator at the James A. Michener Art Museum (retired); and William Valerio, Woodmere’s Patricia Van Burgh Allison Director and CEO. It also includes an extensive chronology of Schofield’s life and detailed catalogue entries.

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