Published: April 10, 2007
On April 21, The Muscarelle Museum of Art at The College of William & Mary will be the first museum venue on the national tour to showcase works from the renowned artists in the Wyeth family together in one exhibition. Beginning with patriarch N.C. Wyeth, and highlighted by Andrew Wyeth’s career, the Wyeths are an integral part of the tradition of American Art. The exhibit is on view through May 27.
The exhibit, “An American Story: The Wyeth Family Tradition In Art,” includes more than 80 works of N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, Jamie Wyeth, Carolyn Wyeth, Henriette Wyeth, Peter Hurd and John McCoy. Of interest are the illustrated private letters of Andrew Wyeth, including drawings of his dogs, his son Jamie, and his hand painted Christmas cards. The cards and letters offer a personal glimpse into the life and mind of this American icon.
Shown together, this exhibit showcases the Wyeth family’s vast contributions to American art, and their vision of Twentieth Century American life. The family’s deep love of country, especially its home in Chadds Ford, Penn., and its Maine summer retreat, is apparent in paintings such as Andrew Wyeth’s “The Corner.”
Not only do the artists’ works indicate strong ties to the land, but the pieces have a mysterious quality as well. The intrigue of “The Corner,” like many of Andrew Wyeth’s works, is not only what can be seen in the paintings, but the surroundings that are mysteriously absent as well. Similar observations can be made about other works in the show, including “Tenant Farmer” and “Blue Door,” lending an air of mystery to the exhibition.
“The Wyeths are the first family in the history of painting in America, so 2007 †the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown †is the perfect year to exhibit these important works in Williamsburg,” said Dr Aaron De Groft, director of the Muscarelle. “We are very happy for the collaboration with the Delaware Museum of Art, in whose collection these important and rarely seen works are found.”
Dr Mary F. Holahan, curator of collections and exhibitions, Delaware Art Museum, provided the following introduction to the exhibition:
This selection of works by members of the Wyeth family tells the story of a remarkable family deeply immersed in creating art.
N.C. Wyeth, renowned illustrator and painter, was the father, father-in-law and grandfather of artists whose works have captured the imaginations of viewers over a century. His daughters, Henriette and Carolyn, became painters, while his daughter Ann is a musical composer and watercolorist. The last-born of his children, Andrew, is one of America’s most recognized painters.
Two of N.C. Wyeth’s sons-in-law, Peter Hurd and John McCoy, looked to him as a teacher and mentor in their painting careers. The tradition continues in Jamie Wyeth, Andrew’s son, who builds on the family’s artistic spirit.
Whether the subject is a person, an animal, a landscape or an imagined event, the art created by all the Wyeths can be seen as a portrait of America.
Newell Convers Wyeth (1882‱945) was born into a Massachusetts family. Over the objections of his father but with encouragement from his mother, he decided on a career in art and in 1902 began studies with master illustrator Howard Pyle (1853‱911), at the artist’s Wilmington, Del., and Chadds Ford, Penn., studios.
His first published illustration, 1903, was a wild West bronco buster done as a cover for the Saturday Evening Post. In 1911, with a $2,500 commission from Scribner’s to illustrate Robert Louis Stephenson’s Treasure Island, Wyeth and his wife Carolyn (Bockius) moved to a house and studio in Chadds Ford. They established an attachment to the region that most of the Wyeth artists would share. From 1930 on, the Wyeth family summer home †Eight Bells, named for the Winslow Homer painting †on the rocky shore of Port Clyde, Maine, eventually had studios shared by N.C., Andrew, Henriette and Carolyn.
While his subject matter as an illustrator was often imposed upon him by editors, Wyeth continued to favor independent motifs such as the American West and the landscape and seascape of Pennsylvania and Maine.
The son and student of N.C. Wyeth, Andrew (b 1917) fulfills his father’s dream to be recognized primarily as a painter. Tutored at home because of fragile health, he was able to devote much of his youth to his art studies. This exhibit is part of a collection of work by the young Andrew Wyeth, from the years 1939 through 1969.
The son of Andrew and grandson of N.C., Jamie (b 1946) represents the third generation of Wyeth family artists. He never studied with his father, but his apprenticeship was entrusted to his aunt Carolyn. She was a demanding teacher who emphasized the rendering of basic shapes.
Later, Jamie came to appreciate his aunt’s persistence and her predilection for the medium of oil that he came to share in preference to his father’s tempera.
Andrew Wyeth’s sister, Ann (1915′005) was a musician and composer who, at age 19, had her composition “Christmas Fantasy” performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Leopold Stokowski. In the late 1960s, she took up watercolor. She celebrated her 90th birthday with an exhibition of her watercolors of Chadds Ford and the Maine coast.
One of three daughters of N.C. Wyeth, Carolyn Wyeth (1909‱994) studied with her father for 19 years and lived in the family home most of her life. She painted the world around her, mostly scenes in and near Chadds Ford. After N.C. Wyeth’s death in 1945, she cared for her mother for 28 years, while continuing to teach and paint.
The oldest child of N.C. Wyeth, Henriette Wyeth (1908‱997) was schooled in art by her father from the age of 11. Despite a right hand disabled by polio, she developed into a skilled portraitist. She had a lifelong love of the theater; her portrait subjects included Helen Hayes.
The museum is on Jamestown Road on the college campus. For information, www.wm.edu/muscarelle or 757-221-2700.
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