Fern Isabel Coppedge 1883–1951

Artist Fern Isabel Kuns Coppedge was a member of the Pennsylvania Impressionist community and a prominent female artist of The Philadelphia Ten. A prolific artist, she worked in both the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist styles, painting rural Bucks County, Pennsylvania and the harbor of Gloucester, Massachusetts.

Fern Isabel Kuns grew up on a family farm in Illinois, an experience that inspired her love of landscape and preference for painting outdoors, en plein air. Her desire to become an artist was piqued at the age of 13 when she joined a class in watercolor painting attended by her older sister.

The nascent landscape artist studied in Kansas at McPherson College and later the University of Kansas, where she met and married Robert H. Coppedge, himself an amateur painter. The couple eventually moved to the East Coast. Coppedge, encouraged by her husband, continued her studies with Vincent DuMond and William Merritt Chase in New York at the Art Students League of New York and with John F. Carlson, founder of a school of landscape painting in Woodstock, New York. In 1917 Coppedge was accepted to the annual exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She also studied there with Daniel Garber and Henry Snell.

As Coppedge’s reputation grew she became a leader in the East Coast artistic community. She was a member of the “Philadelphia Ten”, the group of women artists who, blocked from exhibiting at a number of public institutions, joined to publicly exhibit their artwork. Her 1925 paintings of the Arno River in Florence were among the most popular in the Philadelphia Ten’s exhibition of 1926.

Coppedge was an intrepid plein-air painter, famed for motoring through the Bucks County snow looking for just the right landscape to paint, then setting out on foot, wrapped in a bearskin coat and painting until her fingers were frozen. As she matured, her images became more two dimensional, abstract, and vibrant, a combination of Impressionism with Modernism in jewel bright, contrasting colors and a rich impasto.

Fern Coppedge’s paintings are found in many private collections and museums including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the James A. Michener Art Museum, and the Greenville County Museum of Art. Her work, particularly that depicting Bucks County, continues to be very desirable on the secondary art market.