Brandywine River Museum

Chadds Ford, PA



Brandywine River Museum: Highlights from the Collection


When the Brandywine River Museum opened in 1971, its permanent collection included only a handful of paintings, drawings and prints. Almost three decades later, the museum's collection contains more than 2,600 works of art. The growth is notable because, as recently as the early 1980s, there simply was not enough art in the collection to fill the galleries. Installations during the museum's first ten years were largely dependent upon loans from generous private collectors and other museums.

"Highlights from the Collection," an exhibition from January 22 through March 12, 2000, celebrates diverse works of art that reflect the museum's mission. In many respects, a museum is defined by its collections, and a major portion of Brandywine River Museum's mission is to collect and preserve American art with special emphasis on the art history of the Brandywine Valley and the art of the Wyeth family. The new exhibition contains more than 260 works by more than 80 artists, including recent acquisitions that have enlarged the scope of the collection. It has been organized by Gene E. Harris, curator of collections. (left: Jamie Wyeth (b.1946), Draft Age, 1965, oil on canvas, Permanent collection of the Brandywine River Museum, Photograph courtesy of the Brandywine River Museum)

Trustees, staff members and patrons are proud that additions to the museum's collection have been made by gift, bequest and purchase. Supporters have given important works from early 19th-century landscapes to the art of Jamie Wyeth. Bequests have often been surprises, from a painting by William Trost Richards to illustrations by Newell Convers Wyeth. Purchases have been made possible in many ways. Individuals and foundations have given restricted contributions, as well as endowment funds, to buy art. Through their annual antiques show and "critter" ornament sale, the museum volunteers raise funds for important additions to the collections, and each year the trustees allocate funds for art acquisition. From the first known American lithograph (made by Bass Otis) to a portrait by Andrew Wyeth, strategic purchases have greatly enhanced Brandywine River Museum's collection.

Because of the museum's focus on American illustration, it has been important to develop extensive library holdings representing the published form of original works of art made for books and periodicals. "Highlights from the Collection" includes many of these publications near the paintings and drawings they represent. An important part of the educational potential of the museum's collections is thereby revealed and celebrated.

Only a relatively small portion of the museum's growing collections can be shown at one time. By examining this representational selection and demonstrating its high quality, visitors can look forward to further growth in the size and importance of the heritage that is the museum's dedication. Future programs will depend on making available fine works of art that reflect the best of our culture and its artists.

Read more about the Brandywine River Museum in Resource Library Magazine

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 12/23/10

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