Willard Metcalf

Thawing Brook

oil on board 
7.5 x 9.5 inches
signed lower left

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Provenance: Koch Galleries; The Coker Family (purchased 1985); Private collection, Virginia

A leading American Impressionist and a member of the Ten American Painters, Willard Leroy Metcalf is best known for scenes of the hills and countryside of New England in which he merged a realist and an Impressionist approach. For his intimate and sweeping vistas of the rural locales that he knew so well, he was acclaimed as the “painter laureate of New England,” and his direct and sincere works have been compared with the poems of Robert Frost. 

The winter scenes Metcalf produced in Cornish, New Hampshire brought him some of his greatest popular and critical acclaim. In an era of rapid social change, images of rural New England evoked a longed-for sense of stability and endurance and were in high demand. By veiling the region’s topography under a mantle of snow, Metcalf gave his compositions a soft and generalized quality greatly admired for its poetic sentiment. Critics saw these works as highly successful both in their expression of Metcalf’s personal vision and for the contemplative response they elicited from the viewers.

Rather than focusing on the region’s majestic views of Mount Ascutney and its elegant homes and gardens, Metcalf preferred to paint more intimate scenes evoking the peaceful, timeless quality of winter’s quiet charms.

Among Metcalf’s most emotive subjects was the snowbound stream. Raised by ardent spiritualists and an admirer of such transcendentalist authors as Thoreau and Emerson, he probably associated brooks with the regenerative, cleansing properties of water and saw them as a metaphor for a life course or spiritual journey.

Public Collections:

LaSalle Univeristy Art Museum; Addison Gallery of American Art; Akron Art Museum; Art Institute of Chicago, Ball State University Museum of Art; Brick Store Museum; Bush-Holley Historic Museum; Butler Institute of American Art; Chrysler Museum of Art; Cornish Colony Museum; Dallas Museum of Art; De Young Museum; Denver Art Museum; Florence Griswold Museum; Frederic Remington Art Museum; Freer Gallery of Art; Hood Museum of Art; Lauren Rogers Museum of Art; Mead Art Museum; Memorial Art Gallery; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts; Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute; Musee d’Art Americain Giverny; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

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