A Visit to the Brandywine River Museum of Art

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A couple months ago I was able to tour the Brandywine River Museum of Art while visiting family in Pennsylvania. I was excited to have found such a great collection of American historic and illustrative art hours away from any big city. But my true desire to visit the museum stemmed from this piece by N.C. Wyeth that had long ago rested in my childhood bedroom (below). I couldn’t wait to find out more about the artist whose work I had wondered at since I was 6.

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The Giant (fig 1)

The museum is 5 minutes away from the house that illustrator N.C. Wyeth purchased in 1911, using the proceeds he had gained from his pieces published in Treasure Island. Since its purchase, the house and surrounding area have provided studio space and artistic inspiration to N.C. Wyeth, his daughters Henriette and Carolyn Wyeth, his son Andrew Wyeth, and his grandson Jamie Wyeth.

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Brandywine River, view from the Brandywine River Museum of Art

The Wyeth’s land stretches on for 18 acres and rests near the village of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. N.C. Wyeth dubbed the land “the most glorious sight in the township” (Brandywine River Museum).  It was definitely a pretty sight, the soft trickling sounds of the river creating a very serene atmosphere. It was very special to not only see the art but to take in the same sights, the same ancient, gnarled trees and crisp, leafy canopy that nurtured the art of generations of Wyeths.

 

Images (left to right, fig 2-4): “My dear,” said General Washington, “Captain Prescott’s behavior was inexcusable” (1896), The Nation Makers (1903), Viewing the Battle of Bunker Hill (1901)

The art of the Museum rests on three main floors, the first one containing a plethora of historical American art. I walked through this section first, eagerly taking in sights of the art. There, my eye was caught by several pieces by Howard Pyle, another notable illustrator of the 19th and early 20th century. Pyle drew particular inspiration from the American Revolutionary War, and throughout his career created several compelling works surrounding its conflicts, and the scene’s behind them. (above).

 

Images (left to right, fig 5-9): I said goodbye to mother and the cove (1911, Treasure Island), It hung upon a thorn, and there he blew three deadly notes (1917, The Boy’s King Arthur), The Wreck of the “Covenant” (1913, Kidnapped), To me he was unweariedly kind, and always glad to see me in the galley (1911, Treasures Island), Our lives depended on our helmsman (1940, Man against the Sea)

Further into the  2nd and 3rd floor of the museum, much more of the Wyeth family art began to appear. I spent the majority of my time in the N.C. Wyeth section, where I once again fell in love with the art of the great illustrator. I especially enjoyed the deep, vivid blues that Wyeth was able to achieve in his seascapes, thanks to the creation of pigments from “Monasterial Fast Blue B”, and “Monasterial Fast Green G”. The pigments were developed by chemists employed at a factory owned by the DuPont Family, who provided N.C. Wyeth with the paint.  Several of the illustrations there were associated with novels I’d heard of (above). The scenes of the stories that the pictures let slip, and the questions they aroused, inspired me to go out and obtain many of the books upon leaving the museum.

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Self Portrait, 1945 (fig 10)

Andrew Wyeth spent lots of his painting career around the Chadds Ford area, creating images of its lovely natural imagery, and the buildings and domestic animals that permeated it. Andrew was taught extensively for several years by his father, N.C. Wyeth, starting at the age of 15 (above).

 

Images (left to right, 11-12): Hepaticas (1966), Portrait of Carolyn Wyeth (1931)

Henriette Wyeth combined abstract with realistic qualities to make beautiful, harmonious pieces. Like her younger brother, Andrew Wyeth, she was inspired by subjects all around her, including local wildflowers and family members (above).

 

Images (left to right, fig. 13-15): Portrait of Pig (1970), Mort de Noureev (2001), Frolic (2017)

Jamie Wyeth, the son of Andrew Wyeth, also gained much of his inspiration from his surroundings. It was the esteemed dancer Rudolf Nureyev that Jamie took on as his primary subject, and whose image captivated him probably almost as much as the dancer’s stage performances. Jamie currently continues the Wyeth legacy through many inventive multi-media pieces that echo his father’s nostalgia of rural life decades ago.

 

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Bright, J Clayton. Miss Gratz. 1984, Brandywine River Museum of Art.

As I left the Museum, I carried with me a deeper appreciation of the interplay between text and image that successful illustration work requires, as well as a tiny post-card version of the piece that had hung in my bedroom many years ago.

I hope to return this summer to see what new amazing art collections the little museum brings in, and to again enjoy the breathtaking landscape that surrounds it.

Miah Tapper ’21

Images

Fig 1: Wyeth, N C. “The Giant.” MainlineToday, Mark E. Dixon, 2017, Westown School, http://www.mainlinetoday.com/core/pagetools.php?url=/Main-Line-Today/September-2010/NC-Wyeth-and-039The-Giant-039/&mode=print.

Fig 2:  Pyle, Howard. “My Dear,” Said General Washington, “Captain Prescott’s Behavior Was Inexcusable. Oil on Pastel. 1896, Brandywine River Museum of Art.    (Collection of Mrs. Andrew Wyeth)

        Illustration for “Love at Valley Forge,” by Sarah King Wiley, The Ladies Home Journal, December 1896            

Fig 3:  Pyle, Howard. The Nation Makers. Oil on Pastel.1903, Brandywine River Museum of Art.

         Illustration in Collier’s Weekly, June 2, 1906

Fig 4: Pyle, Howard. Viewing the Battle of Bunker Hill. Oil on pastel. 1901, Brandywine River Museum of Art.             (Collection of Rita and Lawrence Pereira)

        Illustration for “Colonies and Nation,” by Woodrow Wilson, Harper’s New Monthly, October 1901.         

Fig 5: Wyeth, N C. I Said Goodbye to Mother and the Cove. Oil on Pastel. 1911, Bandywine River Museum of Art.      (The Andrew and Betsy Wyeth Collection)

        Illustration for Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1911)    

Fig 6: Wyeth, N C.  It Hung upon a Thorn, and There He Blew Three Deadly Notes. Oil on Pastel. 1917, Brandywine River Museum of Art.             (The Andrew and Betsy Wyeth Collection)

        Illustration for The Boy’s King Arthur, edited by Sidney Lanier (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1917)           

Fig 7: Wyeth, N C.  The Wreck of the “Covenant”. Oil on Pastel. 1913, Brandywine River Museum of Art.

       Illustration for Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (New York: Charles Scribner’s Song, 1913)

Fig 8: Wyeth, N C. To Me He Was Unweariedly Kind, and Always Glad to See Me in the Galley. Oil on Pastel. 1911, Brandywine River Museum of Art.  (Andrew and Betsy Wyeth Collection)

         Illustration for Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1911)

Fig 9: Wyeth, N C.  Our Lives Depended on Our Helmsman. Oil on Pastel. 1940, Brandywine River Museum of Art. 

        Illustration for The Bounty Trilogy, Men Against the Sea by Charles Nordoff and James Hall, Little, Brown and Company, 1940.

Fig 10: Wyeth, Andrew. Self Portrait. Oil on Pastel. 1945, Brandywine River Museum of Art.

Fig 11: Wyeth, Henriette. Hepaticas. Oil on Pastel. 1966, Brandywine River Museum of Art.

Fig 12: Wyeth, Henriette. Portrait of Carolyn Wyeth. Oil on Pastel. 1931, Brandywise River Museum of Art.

Fig 13: Wyeth, Jamie. Portrait of Pig . 1970, Brandywise River Museum of Art.

Fig 14: Wyeth, Jamie. Mort de Noureev. 2001, Brandywise River Museum of Art.

Fig 15: Wyeth, Jamie. Frolic. 2017, Brandywise River Museum of Art.

Websites

Brandywine River Museum. “Wyeth Family Artists.” Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art, 10 July 2017, http://www.brandywine.org/museum/about/wyeth-family-artists.

Lane, Jim. “Art Now and Then.” Brandywine River Museum, 28 Sept. 2017, art-now-and-then.blogspot.com/2017/09/brandywine-river-museum.html. 

          

 
 
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