Published: September 28, 2004
Sixty-five years ago, the director of a new museum called the Currier Gallery of Art featured a promising 21-year-old painter named Andrew Wyeth in a solo exhibition. Maud Briggs Knowlton had been impressed by the work of the young artist, and she was not alone. Two years earlier, Wyeth’s debut at the prominent Macbeth Gallery in New York City had sold out so quickly the gallery owner lamented that the paintings were gone before his best clients had even seen the show.
Today, Andrew Wyeth is an American icon, a revered master of realism and a noted, if reluctant, celebrity in the art world. The Currier Museum of Art, known for its unique combination of intimacy and excellence, is a renowned cultural institution celebrating its 75th anniversary. And once again, the Currier is honored to present an exhibition of paintings by Andrew Wyeth.
From October 8 through January 10, the Currier will host “Andrew Wyeth: Early Watercolors,” an exhibition of 52 watercolors and two temperas painted by the artist during the first 15 years of his career. Many of the works are from the collection of the artist and his wife Betsy, and have not been exhibited publicly.
Andrew Wyeth was born the youngest of five siblings on July 12, 1917, in Chadds Ford, Penn. His father, famed illustrator N.C. Wyeth, taught all his artistic children. But Andrew, frail in health and demonstrating perhaps the most promise of all, was carefully nurtured by his father in the studio.
Wyeth’s early watercolors reveal a rich and sometimes bold palette, an original vision and an authentic sense of place. They reveal the land and people Wyeth cherished both in his home of Chadds Ford and coastal Maine, near Port Clyde, where he has spent his summers since youth. The boldly painted, rarely seen watercolors are distinctly different from the subdued tones and fine detail of Wyeth’s later work in tempera. In the 1940s, his palette became more muted, and his focus turned more frequently from the broad landscape to a single object or group of objects.
“Andrew Wyeth: Early Watercolors” highlights another early association between the artist and the Currier. In 1951 the Currier organized his first major retrospective, in collaboration with the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine. By this time, Wyeth had achieved national fame with cornerstone paintings in tempera, like “Winter,” 1946, “Wind from the Sea,” 1947, and “Christina’s World,” 1948.
Two gallery talks will further explore the life and work of the artist. On Thursday, October 21, exhibition curator and Currier director Susan Strickler will present “Andrew Wyeth and the American Watercolor Tradition.” This illustrated talk will explore Wyeth’s place within the tradition of watercolor painting in America.
On Thursday, November 18, Christopher Crosman, director of the Farnsworth Art Museum and Wyeth Center, will present a fresh look at Wyeth’s iconic painting “Christina’s World,” placing it in the context of Wyeth’s long career and American art in general. This talk, entitled, “Andrew Wyeth in Context: Christina’s World Revisited” also examines connections between Wyeth’s work and that of Thomas Eakins, Edward Hopper, and contemporaries including the Abstract Expressionists.
Music-lovers can celebrate Wyeth’s work with an “Homage to Andrew Wyeth” on Thursday, November 4, at 6 pm, when Allen Barker will play piano music inspired by the watercolors of Andrew Wyeth, including a composition by Ann Wyeth McCoy, the artist’s sister.
On Thursday, December 30, 1 to 4 pm, artist-in-residence Ann Trainor Domingue demonstrates the techniques and challenges of watercolor painting in the museum’s court. And, at 2 pm every Thursday through Sunday during the exhibition, the film, Andrew Wyeth: Self Portrait – Snow Hill will be shown in the Currier’s auditorium.
Admission to the exhibition “Andrew Wyeth: Early Watercolors” is $4 for adults, in addition to regular museum admission. Nonmember regular admission to the museum is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and students and free for children under 18. Because of expected high demand for programs related to this exhibition, reservations are necessary for the gallery talks. Call 603-669-6144, ext 108 to reserve tickets, which are free with museum admission. Space is limited.
On Thursday, December 16, admission to the exhibition is free for all New Hampshire residents, courtesy of Citizens Bank Foundation.
To accompany the exhibition, the Currier has published a full-color, 72-page catalog ($24.95, softcover). After leaving the Currier, the exhibition travels to the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine from April 5 to July 31.
The Currier is at 201 Myrtle Way, and is wheelchair accessible. Museum hours are: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm; Thursday, 11 am to 8 pm; Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm. For information, 603-669-6144, ext 108, or www.currier.org.
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