While showing a property to my clients in early October, I was overcome with nostalgia as I entered the living room of this beautiful old New Hope home. I looked out the large window and saw a scene so familiar it gave me pause. That view of the landscape has been painted hundreds of times, by as many artists but in this particular home it was also reflected in a large painting, hanging over the fireplace, by the late Joseph Crilley. I recognized it as one of my favorites, and I remembered when I first saw it. As I stood there I could not help but look out the window then back to the painting in awe of both the beauty of Bucks County in the fall, and by the talent of this local icon. Seeing that painting conjured up memories of the highly anticipated Joseph Crilley show, which used to be held each year right after Thanksgiving. I was working as a framer in a gallery in Lambertville at the time, and we had been hosting this show for a few years. The planning for this annual exhibit would start right after the previous year’s show, and by the week before Thanksgiving we were all going crazy with preparations. The year I first saw that painting, the color of the walls in the gallery were a shade that was often used as an under-painting color by the legendary Bucks County Impressionists. It did amazing things for the paintings that were hung against it. New lighting was also put into place to help bring out every hue. The paintings where hung the day before the show, behind the windows and doors covered in paper, to keep these anticipated images under wraps. This particular year it was my job to create a window display for the show. My inspiration was a photograph I had taken of Joe while I was walking around town and spotted him looking for new subjects to paint. Keeping that image in mind, I created a display for the window modeled after a large pop-up book. I took photographs of the buildings and homes in Joe’s paintings, blew them up in size, cut them out, and mounted each of the buildings to stand on their own to become a paper “Crilley Village”. The main focus was a paper cut out version of Joe Crilley himself, created by blowing up that photo I had taken of him and setting him amidst this village painted in his own unique palette. The window was a hit, and as usual, so was the opening night of Joe’s show. At 6pm people had already lined up to be the first in the door. I’m not kidding; they were out in the cold waiting to get in. When we opened the doors the crowd of people came in and looked at all of the paintings very quickly, then stood in front of the one they wanted to let everyone else know they were buying it. By 7pm it was a sea of red “sold” dots. I had never seen anything like it. After the buying frenzy was over, it was time to relax and enjoy the party. Joe was entertaining as always and in attendance were the local newspapers, magazines, curators, gallery owners, friends, artists, and collectors from near and far. I remember it being an exciting evening for an artist like me, just starting out.
That was a very unexpected and welcome memory. When I think about it, running into that painting was like running into Joseph Crilley himself. The time I spent reminiscing about that November show in my mind, while my clients looked over the home they were thinking of buying, was like catching up with an old friend.
By Susan Faith
An Artist’s Adventure In Real Estate
Walking in their footsteps, following their brush strokes and now looking out the windows of their studios. For the past 20 years my life and careers have taken me on a path which always seems to involve the lives of the Pennsylvania Impressionists.