Considered one of the finest of the Pennsylvania Impressionists, Walter Schofield was known for his rugged portrayals of the hills and woodlands around New Hope, in Buck’s County, and for his equally powerful depictions of the Cornish seacoast. His deftly painted canvases brought him widespread critical acclaim, and a reputation as a “painter of power, virility, and verve.” 1
Born in Philadelphia to English parents, Schofield initiated his formal studies in 1889, enrolling in classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. His fellow students included Edward Redfield, who would later share his interest in depicting rural Pennsylvania, and Robert Henri, who went on to become a prominent New York Realist.
In 1892, Schofield went to Paris, refining his skills at the Académie Julian, where he was taught by William-Adolphe Bougeureau, Gabriel Ferrier, and Henri Doucet. He also attended the Académie Colarossi, working under François Aman-Jean. However, Schofield had little interest in academic painting, which revolved around the depiction of the figure. Instead, he preferred to spend his time in the French countryside, sketching with fellow Philadelphians such as Henri, William Glackens, Charles Grafly, and others, an experience that heightened his commitment to outdoor landscape painting.
Upon returning to Philadelphia in 1895, Schofield worked briefly at the Delph Spinning Company, owned by his father, before embarking on a second trip abroad in 1896. His itinerary took him to France and England, where he continued to paint plein air landscapes and studied contemporary European art, especially Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.
In the autumn of 1897, Schofield married Murielle Redmayne, an Englishwoman he had met in Philadelphia. It was around this time that he began painting winter scenes in and around New Hope, working in a style that combined aspects of Impressionism and Realism. His early aesthetic was characterized by subtle hues and soft, fluid brushwork; however, by 1902 his approach had become bolder and more robust, inspired by the example of Redfield, the leader of the Pennsylvania Impressionists who became Schofield’s rival.
In 1901, Schofield and his wife moved to England, eventually settling in St. Ives, a fishing port and art colony in Cornwall. Thereafter, the artist would spend his winters in America, painting landscapes in rural Pennsylvania, upstate New York and New England. Throughout the rest of the year, he painted views of the Cornish coast. During the 1930s, he made painting trips to Arizona, New Mexico and California.
Schofield’s work appeared regularly at the national annuals and won many awards, including the Pennsylvania Academy’s Jennie Sesnan Medal for landscape painting (1903) and its Temple Gold Medal (1914). He was honored with many one-man shows, including three at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. (1912, 1920, and 1932). The artist was a member of the leading art organizations of New York, notably the National Academy of Design, where he was elected an academician in 1907, the National Arts Club (Artist Life Member, 1912), the Salmagundi Club, and the Century Association. Schofield also belonged to the St. Ives Art Club, the Royal Society of British Artists, the Society of Oil Painters, and the Chelsea Arts Club.
Schofield died in Breage, Cornwall in 1944. Although largely forgotten in the years after his death, his reputation has since been revived as scholars and curators have given increasing attention to American Impressionism and its regional manifestations. Exhibitions of Schofield’s work have been held at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania (1983) and at the Payne Gallery of Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (1988).
Schofield is represented in public collections throughout the United States, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the National Academy of Design, New York; the National Arts Club, New York; the Brooklyn Museum of Art; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.; and the Art Institute of Chicago, among many others.
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1. Scribner’s Magazine, vol. 72, quoted in Biographical Sketches of American Artists, 5th ed., rev. and enlg. (Lansing, Mich.: Michigan State Library, 1924), p. 280.