Wyeth's technical mastery and intense focus on people and places he knew well is demonstrated in superb watercolors and egg tempera paintings that demonstrate his deep feeling for the visual and tactile world and his life-long endeavor to recreate his experiences through art. The 36 works in the exhibition demonstrate beyond doubt that Wyeth's lifetime achievement is monumental.
On view together for the first time in many years are all of the artist's remarkable paintings of Siri Erickson, the young girl from Maine painted in the 1960s and 70s. A powerful portrait of the flinty-eyed Anna Christina Olson (1967), whose figure was made famous in the artist's painting Christina's World, reveals Wyeth's unstinting, sensitive representation. This work, jointly owned by Brandywine River Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, was last exhibited in 2004. Other images of Maine include the brooding, rarely exhibited East Waldoboro (1945), last displayed to the public in 1981, and the cool-toned Blue Dump (1945). Both paintings demonstrate the artist's early virtuosity in handling of the tempera medium.
The artist's life and experiences in Chadds Ford are well represented by the enigmatic Roasted Chestnuts (1956), Raccoon (1958), and images of the stoic German, Karl Kuerner, and his farm. In The Drifter (1964), a portrait of Willard Snow, Wyeth's penetrating eye responds to his subject. Conversely, his portrayal of James Loper (1952) suggests aspects of the subject's entire life. An important portrait of Betsy Wyeth, entitled Maga's Daughter (1956), is an elegant and direct visage. Nearby is the artist's more elusive self portrait, Trodden Weed (1951), with its narrow compositional focus on the artist's boot-clad feet as they traverse a field. The memory of crushed plant stalks beneath his feet reminded him of limits to his sensitivity and of his own mortality.
Paintings such as Osborne Hill, Outpost, Night Mare, Night Sleeper, and Hideaway are striking in their realistic, and often dramatic, appearance. But beyond their distinctive imagery they offer Wyeth's personal narratives, memories, and fantasies. These paintings also contain fascinating compositional juxtapositions, textural contrasts and the artist's calculated control of light and shadow to intensely express mood.
Museum visitors may also take a tour of the Kuerner Farm, a major source of inspiration to Andrew Wyeth from his earliest painting there in 1932 at the age of 15. Wyeth found subjects in its people, animals, buildings and landscapes for nearly 1,000 works of art. Guided tours of the farm allow visitors to explore Wyeth's images and view areas of the property depicted in many of his works.
Tours depart from the Brandywine River Museum by shuttle bus and are offered Thursday through Sunday at timed intervals through November 22, 2009. The tour fee is $5 per person in addition to museum admission. Due to uneven walking surfaces, the Kuerner Farm is not accessible to disabled individuals.
The Brandywine River Museum is located on U.S. Route 1 in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. The museum is open daily, except Christmas Day, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults; $6 for seniors, students and children ages 6 to 12; and free for children under six and members. Museum admission is free on Sunday mornings in June, from 9:30 a.m. to noon. For more information, please call 610-388-2700 or visit the museum's website at www.brandywinemuseum.org.