CHADDS FORD, PENN. — A major retrospective exhibition of artist Jamie Wyeth will examine his distinctive approach to Realism over the course of six decades, from his earliest portraits to the present.
On view at the Brandywine River Museum of Art January 17–April 5, “Jamie Wyeth” will include more than 100 paintings depicting the landscapes of the Brandywine Valley and coastal Maine, family members and fellow artists, as well as domesticated and wild animals, many executed in “combined mediums,” the artist’s preferred term to describe his technique.
“We are thrilled to present the largest and most comprehensive survey of Jamie Wyeth’s art ever to be assembled,” said Thomas Padon, director of the Brandywine River Museum of Art. “Jamie Wyeth’s paintings find special resonance here — in the galleries amidst our collection of paintings by his highly talented family and in the location of his childhood home, his first studio and his most consistent muse, the Brandywine Valley. Wyeth’s feverishly creative vision is powerfully conveyed in the extraordinary works in this exhibition.”
The exhibition will present a full overview of Wyeth’s works, including childhood drawings, his first virtuoso portraits, and early images inspired by his participation in NASA’s “Eyewitness to Space” program. The exhibition also includes paintings made during his time in New York with Andy Warhol at the Factory and his sketches and paintings of ballet star Rudolf Nureyev. His work in book illustration, examples of which will be on view, harkens back to his grandfather’s professional successes. His large-scale portraits of barnyard animals and birds are forerunners to his series of the seven deadly sins as portrayed by seagulls, which displays Wyeth’s range and brilliant technique.
Many themes recur in Wyeth’s work, including the people and places most familiar to him, favorite subjects like animals and pumpkins, and even mysterious events and dreams. In Maine, Wyeth often focuses on the buildings and the people rather than the dramatic seascapes so often depicted by other artists. In Pennsylvania, many of his works depict his wife, Phyllis Mills Wyeth, in pursuit of her passion for carriaging, combining monumental-scale equine painting with highly personal portraits.
His compositions reflect inspiration drawn from artists as diverse as John Singleton Copley, Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Rockwell Kent and Edward Hopper, all of whom are represented by works of art in Wyeth’s personal collection. Jamie Wyeth includes portraits of subjects such as John F. Kennedy, Andy Warhol and Rudolf Nureyev, shown alongside a selection of preparatory drawings and studies that offer insight into the development of his work.
“Portrait of Shorty,” 1965, from the collection of Andrew and Betsy Wyeth, has been compared to Copley’s “Boy with a Squirrel,” a painting which the Eighteenth Century artist sent to England to announce himself to the established art world. Wyeth’s painting, made when he was a teenager, functions in a similar manner, signaling the arrival of a new talent.
“Voyeur,” a 2012 painting of Warhol, is a product of the close study Wyeth made of Warhol during their collaboration in the 1970s. “In ‘Voyeur,’ Warhol’s pale figure materializes on the rocky coast like a restless spirit, eternally watching and recording life through his ever-present camera,” said Amanda C. Burdan, associate curator at the Brandywine River Museum of Art. Warhol reappears in a series of paintings made since 2009, depicting a recurring dream of his artistic mentors — Winslow Homer, Warhol, N.C. Wyeth and Andrew Wyeth — posed in various configurations on the dramatic shore of Monhegan Island.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog, Jamie Wyeth (MFA Publications, 2014, $50) examining Wyeth’s work within a wide range of realist traditions.
Organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the exhibition will travel to the San Antonio Museum of Art April 26–July 5 and Crystal Bridges Museum of Art July 23–October 4.
The museum is at 1 Hoffman’s Mill Road. For further information, 610-388-2700 or www.brandywinemuseum.org.