For a long time, the Pennsylvania Impressionists dominated the art conversation around these parts. After all, it was through their landscapes that much of the rest of the world became familiar with the Delaware River Towns.
And while the art, and the close-knit community producing it, has undoubtedly diversified over the generations since the impressionists lived in and around New Hope, a sizable portion of it has remained largely the same. Yet another generation of painters chasing their inner Lathrop or Redfield.
Look no further than the Phillips’ Mill Juried Art Show, the latest edition of which opens September 25 at the mill, just north of New Hope. Every year for the last 92 years, the storied exhibit draws hundreds of artists from the surrounding area, many of them clearly influenced by the impressionists’ subjects and styles.
That’s not meant to diminish any of their work. I get it. I do. During my formative years, I worshipped at the altar of Michael Jordan. After watching one of his games, I’d practice for hours out on the driveway. To this day, the only shot I can reliably hit is a fadeaway jumper.
I appreciate the dominance of LeBron and Steph, but the pinnacle of the game, for me, will always be Jordan’s era. I imagine for many painters around the river towns, the impressionists represent the same kind ideal. And rightfully so.
A legend in his own right
Interestingly, because of our love affair with the impressionists, sculpture has traditionally taken a backseat at the art show. But that’s unlikely to happen this year because Solebury sculptor George Anthonisen has been selected as the Honored Artist, a coronation that’s overdue.
His figurative sculptures are included in some of the most revered collections in the world, including the US Capitol and Carnegie Hall, in New York, as well as the Michener Art Museum, which will feature an Anthonisen retrospective in 2024.
“No matter how advanced we are technologically, we remain human beings adapting and changing to the environment,” Anthonisen, now 85, says of his art. “Art helps us understand ourselves and our fellow humans.”
One of my first assignments as a professional journalist was to profile Anthonisen. I was young and ignorant. And so, I was unaware of the honor it was to interview him. He seemed unaware of it, too. We talked for hours, in his living room, in his studio behind the house, in his backyard.
It was more than 20 years ago, but I can still remember the way his eyes danced when he described something about his art or locked on mine when I responded to one of his questions. It would be years before I understood how rare it is to be that engaged in the world around you.
And, by the way, Anthonisen cites, as his main influences, Auguste Rodin and Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Ain’t nothing wrong with riffing on the masters.
Where to see it
For the first time in its long, long history, the Phillips’ Mill Juried Art Show will also be available online. You can check it out here, as well as at the mill, through October 31.