Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Art of Fern I. Coppedge, 1883-1951

Fern I. Coppedge was one of the Pennsylvania impressionist artists and part of a 20th century art movement  centered around Bucks County Pennsylvania, mainly New Hope.   The movement was often referred to as the “New Hope School" or the "Pennsylvania School" of landscape painting.  The artists of the movement came to prominence in Bucks County after 1915, or after two popular shows, the Armory Show at New York City’s 69th Street Armory that introduced New Yorkers to modern art and the Panama Pacific International Show a World’s Fair In San Francisco.
The Road to Lumberville
Although there were three notable artists from the New Hope School, John Fulton Folinsbee, Walter Emerson Baum and George Sotter, Fern Coppedge was quite well known.  Fern was born in 1883 in Illinois and dreamed of becoming an artist from her early teenage years.  She found inspiration in the reflection of sunlight off of snow and sea.  She learned on a visit to her sisters’ watercolor class of the wonderful possibilities that paint would provide.   She later attended the Art Institute of Chicago, the Art Students League of New York, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.   
The Delaware Valley
Fern was also a member of a group called the “Philadelphia Ten“.  A group of ten women artists who exhibited together, both in Philadelphia and in traveling exhibitions, most of whom had studied at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women or the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.  It's believed that while at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts she met and possibly studied under Daniel Garber, another well known Pennsylvania Impressionist who introduced her to the New Hope area.  Fern painted the villages and farms of Bucks County mostly under the cover snow.  She also painted harbor scenes from Gloucester, Massachusettes where she spent summers.  She worked directly from nature, tying her canvas to a tree during winter storms!   She was not a studio painter.  She painted outisde in the winter in a bearskin coat, with earmuffs and gloves. 
Backroad to Pipersville

In the book Pennsylvania Impressionism by Brian H. Peterson there appears the following quote from Fern

People used to think me queer when I was a little girl because I saw deep purples 
and reds and violets in a field of snow.  I used to be hurt over it until I gave up 
trying to understand people and concentrated on my love and 
understanding of landscapes.  Then it did not make any difference.

Lambertville Church

I love her use of color in the winter scenes.  She brings an otherwise white, somewhat bland landscape to life, without it looking unreal.   She captures those colors that are truly there if you only take the time to look.   She also helps us see the shimmering colors and changing light, which we all too often miss as well.  She captured the beauty of the area.  Luckily for us, it's still just as beautiful here.

New Hope is still an artist colony and tourist area. It’s just across the river, and up a bit, from us.




  1. Colleen, thank you for this information; I love the paintings and the story behind them. The only thing I can paint is a wall and have always envied folks who are talented in that yourself!

  2. I love the quote that you included from her. She truly had a gift from early on. I LOVE her use of color - just beautiful. You did some serious homework on this post! -diane


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