Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Treasure Hunting for Wyeths

Michelle Murdock, Curator of Exhibitions and Chris Rossi, Associate Curator of Exhibitions

Ideas for upcoming exhibits occur in all sorts of ways. Some stick and get developed and others fall by the wayside. Right now, we have some exciting future prospects being developed for the coming years. Among our favorite possibilities is one centering on the Wyeths, and we are finding ourselves being swept up into their powerful family current.

Most of us are familiar with the works of N.C. Wyeth, his son Andrew and grandson Jamie. What we didn’t realize was that N.C.’s daughters, Henriette and Carolyn, also painted. Some of the other children who didn’t paint married painters. The family was one big art enclave with more talent than you could shake a stick at and with the kind of intriguing stories that go along with fame and talent.

NC Wyeth, ca. 1920
Charles Scribner and Sons art reference department records

The Wyeth Family, 1922
N.C. Wyeth, A Biography, by David Michaelis, Knopf, 1998

So how were we to find out more? We decided it was time to make a pilgrimage to the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, the site of N.C. Wyeth’s home and studio. In the Pennsylvania countryside N.C. found the inspiration and setting he was looking for to hone his illustration and painting. In 1911 he wrote “I’m totally satisfied that this is a little corner of the world wherein I shall work out my destiny.”

Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania

Much of N.C.’s work is known to many through his book illustrations. In person, though, the canvasses sing the way a reproduction barely hints at. Carolyn and Henriette’s works were new to us and enlarged our understanding of the family talent. Jamie and Andrew’s work confirmed our appreciation of their art.

“One More Step Mr. Hands”
N.C. Wyeth Illustration for Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Charles Scribner and Sons art reference department records

Then, while on vacation in Maine, Michelle visited the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland. They were featuring an N.C. exhibition, Poems of American Patriotism, and a 3-generation exhibition called The Wyeths’ Wyeths. The Wyeth Study Center at the Farnsworth houses Andrew Wyeth’s works inspired by the Maine coast spanning his career from early childhood drawings to works completed shortly before his death in 2009. The Farnsworth also operates The Olson House, the subject of Andrew Wyeth’s famous painting, Christina’s World, housed at the Museum of Modern Art.

Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, Maine

Christina's World, 1948
By Andrew Wyeth (American, 1917-2009) Tempera on gessoed panel, 32 1/4 x 47 3/4" (81.9 x 121.3 cm)
Museum of Modern Art Purchase, 16.1949

Finally, we both recently visited The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, New York, to take in their current exhibition, Andrew Wyeth: An American Legend, which they organized with the Farnsworth.

The Hyde Collection, Glens Falls, New York

What’s next? A bit more research, perhaps some more road-trips, and hopefully a sublime exhibit to share with our visitors in the upcoming years.

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