Edward Redfield painted The Mill in Winter in seven hours on a snowy December day in 1921 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Early in the morning, he loaded a large fifty-by-fifty-six canvas (he called them 50-56s) into his pickup truck and drove less than a mile from his home to a site near the mill at Centerville. The large canvas was hard to maneuver; Redfield recalled that he attached crossbars to the backs of the stretchers to be able to transport the big picture more easily. But the canvas's size was not the greatest challenge he faced. He had to dress in several layers of woolen clothing and heavy boots and wore fingerless gloves to keep warm. It was so cold that his paint froze in the tubes. "You have to reduce with a great deal of oil in order to make it soft enough to manipulate, " he said, "It's quite a job to cover a canvas that size with small brushes. And mix the many mixes that you make. And you are drawing the same time that you are painting."
Redfield was proud of his ability to complete a 50-56 painting in one day but before he began he would have spent days visiting the site, choosing his viewpoint, studying its nuances, and carefully planning how to paint it so that he could be ready to capture the light of an exact time of day as it appeared before his eyes. The Mill in Winter is painted in a style that parallels the artist's rugged persona. The palette is spare: Redfield uses a range of dove grays, green-grays, and blue-grays, pale yellow, and lavender to render both the landscape and the mill. Thick swaths of paint are brusquely applied, coming to together when seen at a distance to create the appearance of a cold, still river, snow-laden trees, and a vast expanse of overcast sky.
Like many of his generation, Redfield believed in painting specific locales because they had the potential to present nature in its most characteristic form. Centerville, Pennsylvania, as well as the area in and around the ten acres the artist owned in Center Bridge, offered viewpoints, foliage, and scenery that could be differentiated not only from the Hudson River views of earlier generations but from European scenery as well. Redfield's scenes that included structures like the mill, with its simple, barnlike architecture, were not only Pennsylvanian but also uniquely American.