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W. Elmer Schofield


Gallery Database:


Walter Elmer Schofield (1866-1944).

"Liet on the Godolphin Estate," oil on canvas,

26 x 30, signed. Authenticated by Schofield 

scholar and family relative, James Church,

with deep thanks.


Curator's Comments:

In 1895, with his charismatic and influential friend, painter Robert Henri, and fellow art student William Glackens, Walter Elmer Schofield (1866-1944 [revised]) started in Paris and  bicycled round Holland and Belgium to view the Dutch masters. The trip established him as the "landscape bird," among the Philadelphia Gang. The phrase comes from a letter from Sloan to Henri, where the far lesser painter calls Schofield's work  "remarkably knowing for a  landscape bird." And indeed Schofield ranks with Redfield as one of the leading American impressionist landscape painters.

Schofield was born September 10, 1866 in Philadelphia.  His parents had emigrated from England, and Schofield is descended from an illustrious creative family; his mother, Mary Wollstonecraft Schofield, was the grand-niece of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. Not enjoying the best of health as a child, he was sent out West by his father to toughen him up, and, for eighteen months in 1884-5, he lived the life of a cowboy.  Schofield  went on to attend the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, studying with Thomas Anshutz from 1889-92, before leaving for the Academie Julian in Paris, where he studied under Bouguereau, and Ferrier. His travels in France and especially Brittany fired his enthusiasm in a new direction--Impressionism.

In October 1897, he married Muriel Redmayne, whom he had met initially in Philadelphia.  In 1901, they emigrated to England, living initially in Southport, Muriel's former hometown.  In 1903, now with two young sons, they  moved to St Ives, Cornwall, where they stayed for four years. During this time he was instrumental in getting work by his St Ives friends, particularly Hayley Lever, hung in American shows.  His focus on landscape painting intensified, and  he was influenced by the plein-air approach of the artist colony. He adopted a broader view and lighter palette, and proclaimed to his compatriots: "Zero weather, rain, falling snow, wind --
all of these things to contend with only make the open-air painter love the fight...He is an open-air man, wholesome, healthy, hearty, and his art, sane and straightforward, reflects his temperament."  


The Artist, ca. 1935


"Spring Morning" brought $57,000 in 2005

In 1904, his "Center Bridge, Across the River," earned a Carnegie Institute medal, establishing him as a talent that would continue to flourish and evolve, until it came to dominate pre-WWII American landscape painting. The Corcoran held three one-man exhibitions of his work in 1912, 1920 and 1931. He favoured the American exhibition circuit and American patrons and, during the first three decades of the twentieth century, he became regarded as one of the top-ranking American landscape painters and is now ranked as one of the most important of the American Impressionists. Schofield made more than forty crossings of the Atlantic by steamer between 1902 and 1937. Then, in 1937, Schofield's son Sidney purchased Godolphin House, a manor dating from the 15th century, near Helston, and the Schofields returned to Cornwall in 1938.  In 1941, after his son's marriage, they moved to Gwedna House, a smaller residence on the estate, where the painter died in 1944.

A unique modernism characterizes his final nature paintings, done during his Godolphin period. These later works are in a new impressionist mode, which saw Schofield limit his palette, to a spectrum of green hues, along with his typical whites,
blacks and cobalt blues--to produce genuine magnificence. With  the same interaction, the water and woods mesh more subtly but the process of generation is clearly at work. "Liet" is Cornish for Brook. There is much insight in Schofield's remark that "nature is always vital, even in her implicit moods and never denies a vision" to the artist. His works are superb paintings that exhibit an endless fascination with nature's imperfect perfection and the magnificence it creates.

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