Willard Leroy Metcalf found inspiration for many of his paintings in the vistas of New England and sought to capture their transformations from season to season on canvas. He distinguished himself from other Impressionist painters of the day by imbuing each depiction of the northeastern landscape with his own artistic restraint and sense of realism. As Richard Boyle notes, Metcalf “had a true affinity for [landscapes], a genuine feeling. He traveled a great deal to find terrain to satisfy his sense of place, finding what suited him best in the countryside of New England....It was just right for Metcalf, who marshaled his skills and used the formal qualities of his art to depict that landscape and convey what he felt was its essence. So, his sense of color and organization and his orchestration of tone as well as the abstract qualities of line and shape were directed toward that end" (Elizabeth de Veer and Richard Boyle, Sunlight and Shadow: The Life and Art of Willard L. Metcalf
, New York, 1987, pp. 244-45).
Painted in the artist’s colony of Cornish, New Hampshire, The Red Oak brilliantly captures the tones and light that define the autumnal season. “As his Cornish paintings from 1911 so effectively demonstrate, the artist had mastered a distinctive approach to landscape painting by this point. Described as ‘tender and withal true,’ his manner appealed to many for its satisfying balance of naturalism and artifice, and his idyllic New England imagery reinforced widely held nostalgic conceptions of the region and of Yankee culture” (Barbara J. McAdam, Winter’s Promise: Willard Metcalf in Cornish, New Hampshire, 1909-1920, Hanover, New Hampshire, 1999, p. 19).