The local art community reacted with shock and dismay over the death of Rea N. Redifer. Mr. Redifer died Monday. He was 74."This is a terrible tragedy," said artist Andrew Wyeth who knew Redifer for years. "Rea had terrific ability and was one of the finest watercolorists in the country."
Wyeth said he and Redifer had painted together and were close friends.
"He was a sensitive man. This is a great loss," Wyeth said.
Paul Scarborough said he first met Redifer shortly after coming to Chadds Ford more than 30 years ago.
"Rea was an artist's artist. He went beyond just painting. He had so much depth and width. He was far more intelligent than the average artist. He could have been more famous, but he was comfortable where he was. He loved to paint and express himself. Rea was the type you run into only once or twice. He was real down to earth."
Karl Kuerner agreed with Scarborough.
"Rea didn't get the recognition he deserved... but he was happy where he was. You don't appreciate what you have until it's gone. That's the way the local art community should feel about this."
Jim Duff, executive director of the Brandywine Conservancy and director of the Brandywine River Museum said Chadds Ford has lost "one of its best known artists of distinction and a memorable person who contributed a great deal to this community."
Al Willard, co-owner of Harrington's Coffee Co. in Kennett Square with his wife, Carla, knew Redifer well, because the artist arrived there virtually every morning for coffee.
"He was one of our favorite people. We have a new coffee mix that we asked customer's to name. The overwhelming response was something close to Rea's blend," Willard said.
"Over the last year he was in every day, and for the most part he usually sticks to himself. But he was always willing to sit down and talk to people about the many things he knew about. I don't think Kennett will be the same," Willard said.
Bert Proscino, owner of Brush and Palette art store and gallery, exhibited Redifer's work frequently. "When I think of Rea Redifer's complex character, his integrity always comes to mind first - true to himself in his craft, never bowing to commercialism of any kind, he kept the spirit of his talent fluid and intact throughout his creative life. Being entrusted to exhibit his work, was an honor and a great compliment.
"Although many times he was hard to understand in conversation, I was always amazed at his ability to clearly articulate, when called upon to teach art or speak about art in terms of the qualities he believed were essential to its authenticity," Proscino said.
Kennett Square artist Wanda Kevis said Redifer was truly unique.
"In Ed-ward Hopper's words 'The man's the work; something doesn't come out of nothing.' That says it all Rea was the work; the painting, the writing was an extension of his very being. He was most averse to "wearing one's heart on one's sleeve." Without undue sentiment, let me say it was my privilege to have known him to have shared time discussing books, philosophy, and a few laughs. He was truly one of a kind. He leaves a space that won't be filled," she said.
Redifer's influence went beyond the world of painting. It extended to history and music as well. Sally Jane Denk, president of the Christian Sanderson Museum spent time with him before the showing of a play he wrote about Sanderson, "The Last Waltz."
"I'm truly stunned - this is so unexpected. I just saw him at his opening last month and he looked great. [Chadds Ford Gallery Director] Barbara Moore had given him an extra copy of the most recent Sanderson Museum newsletter with an article I had written about his play on Chris Sanderson. When I used to perform folk ballads at Chadds Ford Days, I used to see him sitting out there on a hay bale listening to my whole set, and to me that was more of a compliment than any I could ever receive. He was a true Renaissance man and for all his genius, he always seemed painfully shy. This is a huge loss."
According to Moore, "We've lost a wonderful friend."