For years, as Catherine Quillman covered the local arts scene for the Philadelphia Inquirer, she found herself repeatedly describing the tradition of arts in the Brandywine.
The West Chester resident, who had written five books, realized that what was needed was a book clarifying just what that tradition is – especially with regard to contemporary artists. She often was asked, ‘Why is this so popular when it doesn’t look like Andrew Wyeth?”
Her idea resulted in the recently published 100 Artists of the Brandywine Valley, a fascinating book containing more than 400 images as well as profiles of the artists.
[AMAZONPRODUCTS asin=”0764336746″]Quillman’s first challenge was convincing a publisher that the region’s strong artistic traditions, dating back to artists like Howard Pyle and the Wyeths, still influence and inspire today’s artists.
“They thought the Brandywine Valley was sort of a small area – they didn’t realize there was such a movement here,” Quillman says.
Once Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. agreed to publish 100 Artists of the Brandywine Valley, Quillman faced her next challenge: developing criteria and selecting the artists and their work.
“I didn’t ask for any artwork older than five years,” she says. She focused on contemporary artists working today, but she did include a few who had died recently.
The book explains just what the Brandywine tradition – sometimes jokingly referred to as the school of “barns, buckets and covered bridges”– means, and how the area’s beautiful topography inspired generations of artists. For example, two artists had painted the same scene, 10 years apart, and both images are in the book.
“It shows how different artists doing the same thing have found their own voice,” Quillman says.
Readers will get to know artists and photographers ranging from illustrator Howard Pyle to Lisa Tyson Ennis and Michael Kahn, who use large-format cameras. For many readers, the meticulous watercolor renderings and romantic interpretations of the Brandywine Valley done by artist Peter Sculthorpe are the ideal of the Brandywine tradition.
“The world according to Peter Sculthorpe was one that included snowy hunt scenes, farmsteads with rustic tool sheds, bee hives and walled-in gardens, and moonlit fields with graceful stands of trees,” Quillman says. “Such visions made Sculthorpe one of the Brandywine Valley’s most popular artists.”
Also included is classic sculptor Charles Parks, whose “Boy With Hawk” bronze figure towers nine feet above the gardens in front of the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford.
The hardest part wasn’t finding material on artists in the Brandywine – it was limiting the abundant artwork into a manageable book. Quillman researched 150 artists to settle on her final 100. Quillman also was indebted to the author Daphne S. Landis, who wrote Speaking for Themselves, Artists of Southeastern Pennsylvania (2003).
“The main part was narrowing down the scope – I wanted to define what the Brandywine tradition was,” she says. “It seemed like artists were coming out of the woodwork. The hardest part was getting in touch with these artists. Artists can be very isolated, and some didn’t bother to reply.”
She created a website where artists could upload their submissions for the book. Some artists, she noted, had digital files ready to go and even offered suggestions for page layouts, while others had old slides. Local galleries, such as Sommerville Manning and Chadds Ford, helped her contact artists.
“You end up spending 30 percent of your time writing, and the rest in interviews and gathering material,” Quillman says, adding that she dug back through her old notes, since in her 20-year-career she had interviewed famous artists such as Andrew and Jamie Wyeth.
But in the end, her book beautifully illustrates the Brandywine tradition.
“I think you needed a book to explain all the diversity here,” she says.