Saturday, January 10, 2009

The museum the Wyeths built

kw: museums, paintings, fine art

Today, was free admission day at the Brandywine River Museum, so my wife and I tootled down PA Highway 1 to have a look. All we knew is that it has paintings by members of the Wyeth family. This image, from a published photograph [© A. B. McCoy 1985], is of Old Kris by N.C. Wyeth.

In brief, N.C. is the original Wyeth, mainly an illustrator, who worked from the late 1800s to the early 1940s. He died in 1945. His son Andrew is the currently most famous Wyeth, born in 1917 and still active. Grandson Jamie, born 1946 (and so a year older than I) is the most productive at the moment.

A couple other Wyeth family members also produce art and a piece or two by them are on display. N.C., Andrew and Jamie each have about half a gallery devoted to their work. Also on display is a fine collection of work by Howard Pyle, N.C.'s teacher. Works by other well-known illustrators such as Maxfield Parrish are also shown.

In the non-gallery areas a variety of non-painterly art is on display, such as sculptures large and small, a few carved "wooden Indians", and a large, very ornate Victorian-era doll house. The museum advertises tours led by Victoria Wyeth, but only on weekdays.

I'd called and been told I could not photograph in the galleries, so I didn't bring a camera. It is a pity. In an area where one photography is allowed, three Christmas trees are richly decorated with ornaments made by Museum volunteers, of fanciful animals made from natural materials like thistle and cockle burrs, milkweed pods, gourds, and many other kinds of dried plant material.

On the second floor one gallery is devoted to a delightful model train setup, all O gauge, which is a bit larger than the model train sets that were often given as Christmas gifts to youngsters such as I in the 1950s. Later, HO (half-O) and N (even smaller yet) became more popular, but I've always had a fondness for the larger model sizes.

We had but 90 minutes to spend there, because we could only go late in the day. It was an hour-plus well invested.

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