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The Wyeths: An Artistic Trilogy

September 9 - November 26, 2006


Within the last twelve months, the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum scored a triumphant coup by acquiring three major paintings by three acknowledged masters of twentieth-century realism: N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, and Jamie Wyeth.

In announcing the Wyeth acquisitions, Woodson director Kathy Kelsey Foley noted that although each of the Wyeths had a prominent place on the Museum's collection wish list, "We thought it highly improbable that we would ever have an opportunity to acquire a major artwork featuring birds by any one of them. To realize we have now turned our aspiration into a reality in less than one year is totally astounding. We are most grateful to the Nancy Woodson Spire Foundation for making these acquisitions possible."

N.C.'s Port Clyde (1928, oil on canvas), Andrew's Swifts (1991, watercolor on paper), and Jamie's Feeding Gulls (1999, mixed media on paper) form the core of The Wyeths: An Artistic Trilogy, on view through November 26 at the Woodson. Additional works by Andrew and Jamie round out the exhibition.

Though N.C. is best known for his illustrations that breathed life into more than one hundred works of fiction beginning with Treasure Island in 1911, his passion was painting the lush and painterly landscapes of the Maine coast. After discovering Port Clyde in 1910, Wyeth became totally smitten with the landscape, sounds of lapping water and singing birds, and the salt-laden air. After moving his family there in 1920, he joyously painted the beauty of his surroundings.

A feeling of solitude and peacefulness permeates the scenic coastal area of Maine depicted in Port Clyde. Although the water appears calm, you can "hear" the slight sound of waves gently breaking on the rocky shore as a skein of gulls approaches the foreground. Wyeth's palette of soothing aqua-blues, mauve, and turquoise intensifies the mood and expresses the artist's rapture.

Andrew Wyeth, son of N.C., is the most celebrated representational painter of the twentieth century. His paintings, watercolors, and drawings focus on the Brandywine Valley of Pennsylvania and Delaware, farm interiors and exteriors, stone buildings, and the stark landscapes and white clapboard houses typical of Maine. Swifts, with its distinct roof lines, earth-toned palette, and quick yet decisive brushwork, is quintessential Andrew Wyeth.

A fascination with birds has inspired Jamie Wyeth's artwork since the 1960s. Close to two hundred drawings and paintings feature barnyard chickens and roosters, cawing crows, and scavenging gulls, each defined by confident handling, vibrant coloration, and passion. The roiling water and frenzied food fest of Feeding Gulls exemplify Jamie's mastery and clearly position him on an equal footing in the Wyeth family triumvirate alongside his father and grandfather.

Looking ahead, the Woodson Art Museum's debut of its Wyeth acquisitions sets the stage for a summer 2007 focus on the entire Wyeth family of artists. From June 16 - August 26, 2007, the Woodson will present An American Story: The Wyeth Family Tradition, an exhibition organized by the Delaware Art Museum.


(above: N. C. Wyeth, Port Clyde, ca. 1928, oil on canvas)


(above: Andrew Wyeth, Swifts, 1991, watercolor on paper)


(above: Jamie Wyeth, Feeding Gulls, 1999, mixed media on paper)


Resource Library readers may also enjoy:


MSN Video ofers a 7m26s clip from the Today Show in which "NBC's Jamie Gangel talks with the famous, but reclusive American painter Andrew Wyeth about a retrospective of his work, his career, and his 'Helga' paintings.


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.
Christina's World, The Woman in the Andrew Wyeth Painting is a 60 minute video from 1992 Narrated by Julie Harris. Winner of four Emmys. Directed and edited by Stephen Labovsky and produced by Hudson River Film. This documentary discusses Christina Olson through interviews from friends and relatives. Christina's World is a video 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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