Catalog Essay | October 24, 2019 | Lot 100
Fern I. Coppedge is one of the leading Pennsylvania Impressionists and one of the most important female artists of the Pennsylvania Impressionist movement. Her best works are snowy landscapes of New Hope, Pennsylvania a subject she would revisit on numerous occasions after her first visit in 1917. Her landscapes are recognizable for their bright, contrasting colors and she is often compared to the European Fauve and Post-Impressionist painters.
Coppedge was born in Decatur, Illinois and grew up on her family’s farm with four other siblings. At age 13, she moved to California with her sister and first took an interest in art. When she returned to the Midwest, she studied at McPherson College and then the University of Kansas. From 1908-1910, she focused on pursuing an art education at the Art Institute of Chicago.
She married, and after a brief stint in Kansas, Coppedge moved to New York City. In New York, she studied at the Art Students League under William Merritt Chase and Frank Vincent Dumond, she would also visit the Woodstock colony and study with John F. Carlson.
In 1917, she was invited to exhibit at the annual exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). For the following two years, 1918-1919, Coppedge took courses at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts under Daniel Garber and at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women with Henry B. Snell. In 1920, Coppedge moved to Bucks County purchasing a studio in Lumberville, near New Hope. Other artists living in Lumberville at the time included Daniel Garber, Clarence Johnson and William Francis Taylor.
In 1922, Coppedge joined “The Philadelphia Ten,” a group of female artists who exhibited together from 1917-1945 (founding members of this group included Theresa Bernstein and Arrah Lee Gaul). Coppedge would exhibit with them until 1935. In 1929, she purchased a home and studio on Main Street in the center of New Hope. She styled her home after an old Bucks County farmhouse and modeled the studio after a 19th century carriage house.
During these years as an established artist, Coppedge would travel between New Hope and her exhibition studio in Philadelphia. She would often spend her summers painting in Gloucester and Rockport, Massachusetts.
In New Hope, she was a well-known member of the community. In 1933 and art critic in The New Hope magazine wrote, “We remember seeing Mrs. Coppedge trudging through the deep snow wrapped in a bearskin coat, her sketching materials slung over her shoulder, her blue eyes sparkling with the joy of life.” She often painted outdoors, en plein air, and from the rear of her car which had the back seat removed.
Coppedge left a legacy for future female artists to follow. She died in her home in New Hope in 1951 a successful, independent and prolific female artist. She continues to be recognized as one of the leading Pennsylvania Impressionists. Her works are collected in many notable museums and private collections including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Michener Art Museum.