‘N.C. Wyeth: New Perspectives’ on view at Brandywine River Museum

N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945), ‘Island Funeral,’ 1939, egg tempera and oil on hardboard, 44½in. x 52 3/8in. Brandwine River Museum of Art, Gift of E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art, 2017

CHADDS FORD, Pa. – This summer the Brandywine River Museum of Art is presenting “N. C. Wyeth: New Perspectives,” the first exhibition in almost 50 years to examine in depth the entirety of Wyeth’s multifaceted oeuvre. A formidable yet often overlooked figure in the history of American art, N.C. Wyeth was the foremost illustrator of his generation and the patriarch of an extraordinary family of artists. By repositioning Wyeth as a distinguished painter who worked across the perceived divisions of visual culture in painting, illustration, murals and advertising, the exhibition offers new insights on Wyeth’s place within the broad spectrum of early 20th-century visual arts.

Co-organized by the Brandywine River Museum of Art and the Portland Museum of Art, this landmark exhibition, which includes approximately 70 paintings and drawings selected from major museums and private collections, will be on view at the Brandywine River Museum of Art through Sept. 15.

Well known during the 20th century for his bold, imaginative illustrations that brought new characterizations to classic stories such as Treasure Island, The Boy’s King Arthur and The Last of the Mohicans, N.C. Wyeth was a prolific artist who vigorously pursued parallel interests in painting landscapes, seascapes, portraits, still lifes, murals and advertising images throughout his career. A master of many styles and a brilliant colorist, Wyeth employed the skills honed in the work he produced for publishers and advertising companies to explore and address various thematic and stylistic currents running through the first five decades of the 20th century. Wyeth’s nuanced grasp of how to create emotional power through composition and light effects was not only influential but also established a certain visual standard for dramatic imagery.

The exhibition features the iconic paintings Wyeth created to illustrate books and magazine stories, as well as the remarkable landscapes and figurative works of art that have, up until now, garnered less attention. They include examples of his experimentation with Impressionism during the 1910s and ’20s, as well as his shift toward American Regionalism and his adoption of elements of Modernism from the late 1920s through the mid-1930s. Among the exhibition highlights on view, Island Funeral, 1939, one of Wyeth’s most seminal and complex narrative paintings, represents the culmination of a protracted period of artistic experiment and invention.

The Brandywine is the first of three national venues for this exhibition, and visitors coming to Chadds Ford have a unique opportunity to further immerse themselves in both Wyeth’s work and life. N. C. Wyeth’s own home and studio—a National Historic Landmark and the locus of roots which have nourished a family of extraordinary creativity for more than a century—are owned by Brandywine and open for public tours daily. Wyeth’s majestic studio, with its spectacular Palladian-style north window, is much as the artist left it at his untimely death in 1945.

The catalog accompanying N.C. Wyeth: New Perspectives—co-published by Yale University Press, the Brandywine River Museum of Art and the Portland Museum of Art—includes scholarly essays which examine multiple aspects of Wyeth’s life and work, providing a long-overdue reassessment of the remarkable breadth of this complex and often misunderstood artist.
Exhibition Travel Dates:

The exhibition will travel to the Portland Museum of Art in Maine (Oct. 4, 2019–Jan. 12, 2020) and the Taft Museum of Art in Cincinnati, Ohio (Feb. 8, 2020–May 3, 2020) following its presentation at the Brandywine.