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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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: http://www.brandywine.org/museum/visit/tours