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"Something Waits Beneath It" - Early Work by Andrew Wyeth, 1939-1969

March 29 - July 16, 2006


"Something waits beneath it," Wyeth said, speaking of his preference for the autumnal and wintry landscape. "The whole story doesn't show." This presence-animating Wyeth's landscape, portraiture and studies of weathered architecture-inspired critics in 1943 to call the 26 year old painter a "magic realist." Rendered in precise detail, his scenes nonetheless often harbor a spectral undertone. What "doesn't show" may be the artist's most enduring subject.

"Something Waits Beneath It" -- Early Work by Andrew Wyeth, 1939-1969, presented at the Delaware Art Museum March 29 ­ July 16, 2006, is an intimate exhibition of thirty-two early and seldom seen works by the young Andrew Wyeth, including watercolors and tempera paintings of coastal Maine and eastern Pennsylvania made from 1939 through the 1960s. Eleven illustrated letters, with eighteen watercolor and ink sketches, reveal the private observations of the artist-capturing glimpses of napping dogs, a bowl of holly, a near-by stream, a country kitchen. It is these very objects, animate and inanimate, that often disappear from finished paintings that provide the mystery infusing so much of Wyeth's art.

While modest in scale, this exhibition is enriched by its context in the Delaware Art Museum that is known for its unrivaled collections of American art and illustration. These collections provide a frequent and on-going source of inspiration for Andrew Wyeth who can occasionally be found in the galleries gazing at favorite works by the great American painter and illustrator, Howard Pyle, among others. "One of my greatest pleasures," says Executive Director Danielle Rice "is seeing artists studying the art in the Museum. Imagine my delight at knowing that we continue to be a source of inspiration for someone as accomplished, imaginative and thoughtful as Andrew Wyeth!"

Drawn entirely from the permanent holdings of the Delaware Art Museum, this exhibition complements and coincides with Andrew Wyeth: Memory and Magic, on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Andrew Wyeth: Master Drawings from the Artist's Collection featured at the Brandywine River Museum during the same time period.


Exhibition wall text

Twenty year old Andrew Wyeth won national recognition for his 1937 exhibition of watercolors at New York's Macbeth Galleries. In 1943, critics called him a "magic realist," recognizing the often hard-to-define emotional nuances of his precisely rendered paintings. For over sixty years, in watercolor, tempera and drybrush, Wyeth has portrayed the places and moods of eastern Pennsylvania and coastal Maine. This group of early works is replete with the artist's imagery of weathered architecture, subtleties of landscape and light, and unexpected viewpoints. Ranging from casually glimpsed to deeply studied, Wyeth's scenes are born of close observation, memory, and mastery of line and color, interwoven with his personal experience and feelings.
In his youth, Wyeth often visited the Delaware Art Museum with his father, the illustrator N. C. Wyeth, who settled in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, after his study with Howard Pyle. Throughout his life, Wyeth has returned to the Museum for enjoyment and inspiration.
To float over winter scenes:
I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the landscape...the loneliness of it...Something waits beneath it ­ the whole story doesn't show.
Andrew Wyeth

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TFAO also suggests these DVD or VHS videos:

Andrew Wyeth Self-Portrait: Snow Hill:  60 minutes 1995."Sensitively narrated by actor Stacy Keach, this intimate self-portrait was lovingly produced by the artist's wife, Betsy James Wyeth, and explores over 60 years of Andrew Wyeth's personal drama. This video incorporates the artist's great works of art with family photographs, home movies, personal letters, never-before-seen footage of Wyeth, and the first interview granted by famed model Helga Testorf. This tremendously moving program lends a treasured and unforgettable insight into Andrew Wyeth's very private world." Available through the Sullivan Video Library at The Speed Art Museum which holds a sizable collection of art-related videos available to educators at no charge.
Andrew Wyeth: The Helga Pictures Charlton Heston narrates this 1987 portrait filmed at Chadds Ford where many of Wyeth's famous Helga pictures were painted, and examines 44 of the .Helga pictures, including 22 nudes that have created a storm of controversy in the art world, examining the meaning and mystery of Wyeth's work. VHS: 36 minutes. Available through the Sullivan Video Library at The Speed Art Museum which holds a sizable collection of art-related videos available to educators at no charge.

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