Museum  June 19, 2019

Illustrator, Patriarch, Visionary: An In-Depth Look at N. C. Wyeth

Courtesy Brandywine River Museum of Art

N. C. Wyeth, Island Funeral, 1939, egg tempera and oil on hardboard, 44 1/2 x 52 3/8 in. Brandywine River Museum of Art, Gift of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art, 2017

Chadds Ford, PA — This summer the Brandywine River Museum of Art will present N. C. Wyeth: New Perspectives, the first exhibition in almost 50 years to examine in depth the entirety of Wyeth’s multifaceted oeuvre. A formidable yet often overlooked figure in the history of American art, N. C. Wyeth was the foremost illustrator of his generation, and the patriarch of an extraordinary family of artists. By repositioning Wyeth as a distinguished painter who worked across the perceived divisions of visual culture in painting, illustration, murals and advertising, the exhibition offers new insights on Wyeth’s place within the broad spectrum of early 20th-century visual arts.

Co-organized by the Brandywine River Museum of Art and the Portland Museum of Art (PMA), this landmark exhibition, which will include approximately 70 paintings and drawings selected from major museums and private collections, will be on view at the Brandywine River Museum of Art from June 22 through September 15, 2019.

Well known during the 20th century for his bold, imaginative illustrations that brought new characterizations to classic stories such as Treasure Island, The Boy’s King Arthur and The Last of the Mohicans, N. C. Wyeth was a prolific artist who vigorously pursued parallel interests in painting landscapes, seascapes, portraits, still lifes, murals and advertising images throughout his career. A master of many styles and a brilliant colorist, Wyeth employed the skills honed in the work he produced for publishers and advertising companies to explore and address various thematic and stylistic currents running through the first five decades of the 20th century. Wyeth’s nuanced grasp of how to create emotional power through composition and light effects was not only influential, but also established a certain visual standard for dramatic imagery.

© The Metropolitan Museum of Art / ArtResource, NY

N. C. Wyeth (1882-1945), The Lobsterman (The Doryman), 1944, tempera on hardboard, 23 1/4 x 47 1/4 in.The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gift of Amanda K. Berls, 1975.

The exhibition will feature the iconic paintings Wyeth created to illustrate books and magazine stories, as well as the remarkable landscapes and figurative works of art that have, up until now, garnered less attention. They include examples of his experimentation with Impressionism during the 1910s and 20s, as well as his shift towards American Regionalism and his adoption of elements of Modernism from the late 1920s through the mid-1930s. Among the exhibition highlights on view, Island Funeral, 1939, one of Wyeth’s most seminal and complex narrative paintings, represents the culmination of a protracted period of artistic experiment and invention.

The Brandywine is the first of three national venues for this exhibition, and visitors coming to Chadds Ford have a unique opportunity to further immerse themselves in both Wyeth’s work and life. N. C. Wyeth’s own home and studio—a National Historic Landmark and the locus of roots which have nourished a family of extraordinary creativity for more than a century—are owned by Brandywine and open for public tours daily. Wyeth’s majestic studio, with its spectacular Palladian-style north window, is much as the artist left it at his untimely death in 1945.    

Accompanying Exhibition Catalogue:
The catalogue accompanying N. C. Wyeth: New Perspectives—co-published by Yale University Press, the Brandywine River Museum of Art and the Portland Museum of Art—includes scholarly essays which examine multiple aspects of Wyeth’s life and work, providing a long overdue reassessment of the remarkable breadth of this complex, and often misunderstood artist. The authors include D. B. Dowd, Professor of Design and American Culture Studies at Washington University, St. Louis; David M. Lubin, Charlotte C. Weber Professor of Art at Wake Forest University; Kristine Ronan and Karen Zukowski, both independent scholars. The exhibition’s co-curators, Christine Podmaniczky, Curator of N. C. Wyeth Collections and Historic Properties at the Brandywine River Museum of Art, and Jessica May, Deputy Director and Robert and Elizabeth Nanovic Chief Curator at the Portland Museum of Art, are also contributors.

Exhibition Travel Dates:
The exhibition will travel to the Portland Museum of Art in Maine (October 4, 2019–January 12, 2020) and the Taft Museum of Art in Cincinnati, Ohio (February 8, 2020–May 3, 2020) following its presentation at the Brandywine. 

Concurrent Exhibition: N. C. Wyeth: A Personal Perspective
Organized by the Brandywine and on view at the Museum from May 25 through September 8, 2019, N. C. Wyeth: A Personal Perspective, will highlight a special collection owned by artist and author Douglas Allen. Since his childhood, Allen has spent seven decades assembling one of the most comprehensive compilations of printed material documenting N. C. Wyeth’s career. Allen’s remarkable assemblage includes first and/or signed editions of Wyeth illustrated books; posters and rare boxed sets of prints; advertisements; hard-to-find old magazines; letters; and archival photographs—even objects such as dinnerware and lamps decorated with Wyeth’s designs. This exhibition reveals the scope of Wyeth’s impact on the popular culture of his time, but it also demonstrates, with a selection of Allen’s own wildlife paintings, the inspiration one artist can find in a respectful study of another artist’s oeuvre.  

N. C. Wyeth: New Perspectives is generously made possible by Ms. Linda L. Bean, The Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts, Wyeth Foundation for American Art, the National Endowment for the Arts, Dr. Benjamin F. Hammond, George Lucas Family Foundation, Sotheby’s and Freeman's. Additional support has been provided by donors to the Brandywine River Museum of Art Exhibition Fund including the Davenport Family Foundation, William C. and Laura Buck, Mr. and Mrs. Robert V. Duprey/Hamilton Family Charitable Trust, Morris & Boo Stroud, Mr. and Mrs. Michael R. Matz, Dr. and Mrs. John Fawcett, Mr. and Mrs. Christopher F. Buccini, and Mr. Alan P. Slack. Support for the exhibition’s catalogue is provided by Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund. Support of the exhibition’s educational programs is provided by Somerville Manning Gallery. The Art of Stories programs are generously sponsored by PNC Arts Alive.

About the Brandywine River Museum of Art:
The Brandywine River Museum of Art features an outstanding collection of American art housed in a 19th-century mill building with a dramatic steel and glass addition overlooking the banks of the Brandywine. Known for its holdings of the Wyeth family of artists, the Museum contains the largest collection of N. C. Wyeth's artwork, and features galleries dedicated to the work of N. C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth and Jamie Wyeth. The Museum’s outstanding Heritage Collection presents a cross-section of American art with a special focus on artistic practice in the Brandywine Valley.

The Museum is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day), and is located on Route 1 in Chadds Ford, PA. Admission is $18 for adults, $15 for seniors ages 65 and over, $6 for students and children ages 6 and up; free for children 5 and younger and Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art members. Guided tours of the N. C. Wyeth House & Studio, Andrew Wyeth Studio, and Kuerner Farm—all National Historic Landmarks—are available daily (for an additional fee) from April 4 through November 18; advance reservations are recommended. For more information, call 610.388.2700 or visit brandywine.org/museum. The Museum is one of the two programs of the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art.

About the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art:
The Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art preserves and promotes the natural and cultural connections between the area’s beautiful landscape, historic sites, and important artists. The Conservancy protects the lands throughout the Brandywine Valley, developing new conservation approaches and assuring access to majestic open spaces and dependable water supplies for generations to come. The Museum of Art presents and collects historic and contemporary works of American art, engaging and exciting visitors of all ages through an array of exhibitions and programs. The Brandywine unites the inspiring experiences of art and nature, enhancing the quality of life in its community and among its diverse audiences.

About the Portland Museum of Art:
With an extensive collection and nationally renowned exhibitions, the Portland Museum of Art is the cultural heart of Portland, Maine. The PMA boasts significant holdings of American, European and contemporary art, as well as iconic works from Maine—highlighting the rich artistic tradition of the state and its artists. The museum brings it all to life with unparalleled programming, from special events, family activities and community conversations to PMA Films, curator talks and tours of the Winslow Homer Studio.

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