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Happy to Be Here: Something like the old days in the English Village


The New Hope Colony Foundation for the Arts opened an exhibition of paintings and drawings by David Stier in the “English Village” at Phillips’ Mill in late April.

The foundation, according to a note with the artist’s show announcement, “was created in 2018 to acquire, restore, preserve and reactivate the historic properties surrounding the scenic grounds of the Phillips’ Mill Historic District.”

Morgan Colt, an artist in metal and paint, and an architect, built the eight cottages in the village near New Hope around 1912. Stier’s paintings are displayed in one of the charming and very British buildings.

In the spirit of the Craftsman movement, Colt built across from Phillips’ Mill, what he called the Gothic Shops among the cottages, where “he sold his garden furniture, ornamental ironwork, tooled copper, leather work, and carved wood chests, doors, and painted furniture. He also sold custom-order fireplace implements, folding screens, lighting, and metal trays. ... His workers also were batiks, handweavers, picture framers, and rug makers,” according to Architectural Record, in a 1923 article.

Stier is a modern artist who echoes the tradition of the community of artists who formed the school of the New Hope Impressionists (also Pennsylvania and Bucks County Impressionists). But his style is totally his own and it’s demonstrated in the scenes of the Delaware and local villages that are hanging at the foundation’s center today.

For 35 years, Stier was a teacher and administrator at the Lewis School in Princeton, which specializes in teaching students with dyslexia and other learning difficulties. Stier was once a student there himself. For years, throughout his teaching career, he was attracted to the work of the Bucks Impressionists.

During his time as a teacher, Stier would spend hours sitting in the gallery at Jim’s Antiques in Lambertville, staring at paintings. He was most attracted to the work of William Langson Lathrop, a founder of the New Hope Group, who lived in the stone house across River Road from the mill.

He would show up at the Michener Art Museum and do the same thing — at times the lone visitor in the gallery. He read and reread the book by Michener Curator Brian Peterson, “Intimate vistas: The poetic landscapes of William Langson Lathrop.”

Lathrop, Stier said in a recent phone conversation, “is really among a small handful of artists whose greatest works have stood the test of time.”

A lot of current artists, he said, don’t have the depth and substance that Lathrop showed. “There’s real sincerity, honesty in his work. It said in the book he had great feeling for life and landscapes.”

Joyce Chasan of Point Pleasant, a member of the Colony Foundation board of directors, and longtime owner of a gallery in New York, said at the opening on April 26, “Each artist chooses his own media and creates a unique message using it, with many, many different, varied and beautiful results.”

She described Stier as an individual, not in comparison with other artists.

“The best way I can describe David’s work is to say that his technique is flawless,” Chasan said. “He is a master of his chosen medium and his message comes through his observation, dreams and imagination.

“Other artists will have different images — all are beautiful and meaningful — there is not one way but many, many ways to express one’s self in paint. David’s way is the epitome of self expression.”

Stier was a part-time painter along with being an educator. He signed up with the Silverman Gallery in Holicong 10 years ago and was interviewed by Rhonda Garland and the late Herman Silverman himself on an icy winter morning. Silverman, a local philanthropist, and a founder of the Michener Museum, opened his gallery to make a space for contemporary artists working in an Impressionist style.

Stier started painting full-time in his Carversville studio at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. He makes his own frames and is aiming to emulate the frame-making skills of Ben Badura and others of the early 20th century, who made a living creating frames for the likes of Daniel Garber, Edward Redfield and Fern Coppedge, giants among the local artists.

When he signed up for the New Hope Colony exhibition, Stier hoped to find a new audience with himself featured as an extension of the Pennsylvania Impressionist movement. Response to the show is meeting his expectations. Originally planned to run through May 26, it has been extended to June 1.

On that date, the Colony Foundation and the Phillips’ Mill Community Association will celebrate Eleanor Miller’s 90.75th birthday.

Miller, whose late husband, Shaun, was the son of R.A.D. Miller, one of the Impressionists, has spearheaded the restoration of the English Village, where she has lived since 1995 — in Morgan Colt’s studio. He dismantled trusses from a ruined English abbey, and shipped them to New Hope to use in the studio.

Colt, who died at age 49, was a member of the family that founded the weapons manufacturing company. He lived in the house that became the Phillips’ Mill Inn.

Reservations for Eleanor Miller’s birthday party can be made at

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