Andrew Wyeth home and Studio

Andrew Wyeth home and Studio
December 3, 2017 Christina Mullin
Snow Hill, 1989, Tempera on hardboard panel, Andrew Wyeth


Painted over a two-year period, Snow Hill is both fantasy and memorial, a visual summation of the iconic places and people of Chadd’s Ford that occupied him for the previous fifty years. Wyeth looks backward and inward, bringing together many of these subjects from his past, a number of them now deceased.
Depicted are Karl Kuerner (dressed in his German uniform), holding the hand of Anna Kuerner, who is in turn linked to William Loper, whose prosthetic hook is held by Helga Testorf, rounding the circle to Allan Lynch (of Winter 1946 ), and Adam Johnson (partially obscured). They are surrounded by a landscape that shows, left to right: the railroad tracks where Wyeth’s father, N.C. Wyeth was killed in 1945; the Kuerner farmhouse and barn; the remains of Mother Archie’s octagonal church; the Ring family home in the distance; and Adam Johnson’s shed and haystack.
Wyeth’s models are shown holding ribbons- although one white ribbon is symbolically floating free- and dancing atop Kuerner Hill- a site at once iconic for its recurrence in Wyeth’s work and for its proximity to the site of his father’s death. Wyeth said about the painting, ” these are all the people I have painted in the past;” another time joking that the figures were celebrating his death:” When I worked I raised hell with them mentally and emotionally. They wish I were dead, so they wouldn’t  have to pose anymore.”

In the early fall, I visited a place I had heard about often during my childhood, and especially during the summers I spent in Maine. It possessed almost mythical qualities and especially so since I had grown up with Andrew and Betsy Wyeth, and Jamie and Phyllis Wyeth when they were in the other homes in Maine. Also, several rooms in my father’s house had an N.C. Wyeth paintings in it.

And so, in September, just before the Andrew Wyeth show was closing at the Brandywine River Museum, in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, I stopped by for a visit, and also of the studio nearby where Andrew Wyeth’s father N.C. Wyeth lived and worked and where Andrew grew up, as well as the studio and home of Andrew Wyeth.

The Andrew Wyeth exhibition was wonderful, the first career retrospective of the artist since his death in 2009. The show had over one hundred of his finest paintings and works on paper selected from major museums and private collections. The show also included works by N.C. Wyeth and by his grandson, Jamie Wyeth.

First Stop: Andrew Wyeth home and Studio

Photo I took of Andrew Wyeth when I was 20

Given to the Brandywine Conservancy by the artist’s wife, Betsy James Wyeth, the studio has undergone careful restoration to preserve its appearance just as it had been used by the late artist.

Hanging by the kitchen, Betsy’s hat

The artist’s son Jamie Wyeth said: “The world of Andrew Wyeth is best understood by a visit to his studio.”

This studio served as the artist’s principal Pennsylvania workplace from 1940 to 2008. Thousands of paintings and drawings were created there, inspired by the people, architecture and landscapes of Chadds Ford. The studio still houses the furnishings, library and collections acquired by the artist, as well as examples of the art materials he used throughout his career.

Andy and Jamie loved vintage military jackets and they both used these in several of their paintings.

This is a self-portrait by Andy from 1981. He used an x-ray of his body and a jacket of the style worn by Admiral Lord Nelson, who he greatly admired.

Vintage fencing masks 

Jamie’s temporary studio where he worked on his portrait of JFK.

Visiting Jamie Wyeth on his island off the coast of Maine with my daughters.

Visiting Jamie Wyeth on his island off the coast of Maine with my daughters.

An old Christmas card I found at my father’s, of Andy and Betsy Wyeth.

The Andrew Wyeth Studio is a National Historic Landmark and a member site of the Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

N.C. Wyeth home and Studio

In 1911, with the proceeds from his illustrations for Treasure Island, the artist N.C. Wyeth purchased 18 acres of land on Rocky Hill in the village of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Possessed of “the most glorious sight in the township,” Wyeth built his home and studio overlooking the valley. Here he set down roots, which have nourished a family of extraordinary creativity for more than a century.

The house and studio retain much of their original character. The main studio, with its spectacular Palladian-style north window, still contains many of the props that were essential to the work of an illustrator, including a birch-bark canoe hanging from the rafters and a collection of firearms.

The canoe

Looking into the window of his studio.

Props in N.C. studio

Props in N.C. studio

a letter by N.C.

National Geographic Magazines

A full-size mural painting, displayed in a soaring 1923 addition, helps tell the story of Wyeth’s career. The house, with its country furnishings, reveals a more intimate picture of family life.

Prop room

The N.C. Wyeth House and Studio is a National Historic Landmark and a member of the Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Paintings from the Show:

Walden Pond Revisted, 1932-1933, oil on canvas.  – N.C. Wyeth

N.C. Wyeth was a great admirer of philosopher/naturalist Henry David Thoreau, finding in the writer’s works artistic inspiration and a remarkably sympathetic guide to his own life quest for meaning in life and art.

Airborne, 1996, tempera on hardboard panel, Andrew Wyeth

Throughout his career, Wyeth often infused his work with a sense of magic and mystery- of things left unsaid -and in his late work, this tendency was heightened. Bird feathers suddenly magically appear in Airborne, disrupting the tranquility of what seems to be the perfect summer day with a suggestion that violence has occurred. Beautiful and ethereal as they float through the air, the feathers offer up a mystery auto their origin and symbolism.

To visit the Wyeth Homes and Studios: