Brandywine River Museum

Chadds Ford, PA



Celebrating 200 Years: Du Pont Family Portraits

June 10 - September 4, 2000


Through September 4, 2000, the Brandywine River Museum presents a special exhibition celebrating the 200th anniversary of the du Pont family in America. "The du Pont Family: Two Hundred Years of Portraits" will introduce visitors to individual members of a family that has made an enormous and lasting impact on the Brandywine Valley and the nation.

Ever since Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours and his family emigrated to the United States from France in 1800, du Fonts have figured prominently in business, politics, philanthropy, science and society. Proud of their heritage, accomplishments and contributions, many du Fonts commissioned well-known artists to capture and preserve their likenesses.

The exhibition includes 91 pieces, including paintings and sculpture, a broad range of portrait styles, beginning with late 18th-century paintings of Samuel du Pont, his wife Anne Alexandrine de Montchanin, and their son, Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours, done in France and carried to America in 1800. Among these works is a small study in gouache of du Pont de Nemours attributed to Jacques-Louis David. David probably painted this study in preparation for his great composition, The Oath of the Tennis Court, depicting an important event in which du Pont de Nemours participated at the beginning of the French Revolution. (left: Rembrant Peale, Portrait of Victorine du Pont Bauduy (1972-1861), 1813, oil on canvas, 28 1/2 x 23 1/8 inches, Winterthur Museum, Bequest of Henry F. du Pont, photograph courtesy of Brandywine Museum)

The family quickly established itself in its adopted country, and its sons and daughters chose to sit for distinctly American painters such as Rembrandt Peale and Thomas Sully. Three generations of the du Pont family--Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours, his son Eleuthiére Irénée and Eleuthére's four daughters--sat for Rembrandt Peale. These are magnificent portraits, and three of the six will be shown. Two other outstanding early portraits depicting Charles Irénée du Pont and his wife Dorcas Van Dyke du Pont demonstrate why Thomas Sully was called "the Prince of American portrait painters."

Later du Fonts commissioned talented local artists such as Jefferson David Chalfant and Charles MacLellan. Others sat for émigré artists such as watercolorist Elizabeth Shoumatoff and silhouettist Eveline von Maydell. Still others engaged outstanding portraitists of their times, including Boston-artist William McGregor Paxton and New York-based Robert Brackman. (left: John Sunger Sargent, Portrait of Pierre S. du Pont (1870-1954), 1921, charcoal on paper, 24 x 18 inches, Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, photograph courtesy of Brandywine Museum)

Several du Fonts traveled to Boston to have John Singer Sargent sketch their portraits in charcoal. Lammot du Pont Copeland sat for Salvador Dali, and his portrait contains many enigmatic symbols typical of Dali's work.

In this century, many du Fonts have been portrayed by artists working in the Brandywine region. Henriette Wyeth is represented by a fine portrait of Margaretta Lammot du Pont Greenewalt, as well as a portrait of four-year-old Eldon du Pont Homsey which imaginatively combines her interest in children and flowers. Andrew Wyeth's (b. 1917) vision is apparent in the pencil portraits of Murton du Pont Carpenter and her daughter, Thére, Andrew Wyeth's recent portrait in drybrush and watercolor of Eugene E. du Pont Weymouth demonstrates the scrutiny to which he subjects his sitters. Jamie Wyeth's (b. 1946) portraits of Deo du Pont Weymouth and Phyllis Mills Wyeth show the artist's mastery of the genre from an early age. (left: Jamie Wyeth, Phyllis Mills Wyeth, 1967 and 2000, oil on canvas, 20 x 24 inches, Collection of Jamie Wyeth, photograph courtesy of Brandywine Museum)

A few du Fonts have been or are portraitists, most notably George A. Weymouth (b. 1936) whose oeuvre in egg tempera includes paintings of both close and distant relatives. Weymouth's Portrait of Governor Pierre S. du Pont IV, lent by the Delaware State Museums, reminds viewers that business has not been the sole focus of this family that also boasts senators, governors, and presidential candidates. One of the most recent paintings included in the exhibition is a self-portrait by Henry Greenewalt (b. 1965), a young member of the family beginning his career. (left: George A. Weymouth, Governor Pierre S. du Pont IV, 1984-85, egg tempera on panel, 46 1/4 x 27 inches, Courtesy Delaware State Museum, Dover, Delaware, photograph courtesy of Brandywine Museum)

Many of the paintings are lent by institutions such as the Delaware Art Museum, Hagley Museum and Winterthur Museum. A majority of the portraits in the exhibition come from family collections, and many of these have never been seen in public. The Brandywine River Museum is proud to offer "The du Pont Family: Two Hundred Years of Portraits" as one of many events organized by museums and gardens in the Brandywine Valley to celebrate the history and influence of the du Pont family.

The exhibition is sponsored by The Glenmede Trust Company with additional support from the DuPont Company and numerous individual donors.

Read more about the Brandywine River Museum in Resource Library Magazine

Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.

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

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 3/18/11

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