Photos courtesy of the Brandywine River Museum of Art.
A major retrospective exhibition of artist Jamie Wyeth will examine his distinctive approach to realism over the course of six decades, from his earliest portraits to the present. Jamie Wyeth will include more than 100 paintings depicting the landscapes of the Brandywine Valley and coastal Maine, family members and fellow artists, as well as domesticated and wild animals, many executed in “combined mediums,” the artist’s preferred term to describe his technique. Jamie Wyeth will be on view at the Brandywine River Museum of Art from January 17 through April 5, 2015.
“We are thrilled to present the largest and most comprehensive survey of Jamie Wyeth’s art ever to be assembled,” said Thomas Padon, director of the Brandywine River Museum of Art. “Jamie Wyeth’s paintings find special resonance here–in the galleries amidst our collection of paintings by his highly talented family and in the location of his childhood home, his first studio and his most consistent muse, the Brandywine Valley. Wyeth’s feverishly creative vision is powerfully conveyed in the extraordinary works in this exhibition.”
Born into a renowned family of artists, including his grandfather, N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945), his father, Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), and his aunt, CarolynWyeth (1909-1994), Jamie Wyeth was given the opportunity and support to pursue painting seriously at a young age, although he never formally studied art, instead learning from his aunt Carolyn. Over the course of his career, he continued in the footsteps of his family by painting nearly exclusively in the Brandywine Valley and in Maine, while developing a highly personal approach to his art and exploring subjects and themes over several decades.
The exhibition will present a full overview of Jamie Wyeth’s works, including childhood drawings, his first virtuoso portraits, and early images inspired by his participation in NASA’s “Eyewitness to Space” program. The exhibition also includes paintings made during his time in New York with Andy Warhol at the Factory and his sketches and paintings of ballet star Rudolf Nureyev. His work in book illustration, examples of which will be on view, harkens back to his grandfather’s professional successes. His large scale portraits of barnyard animals and birds are forerunners to his series of the seven deadly sins as portrayed by seagulls, which displays Wyeth’s range and brilliant technique.
Many themes recur in Wyeth’s work, including the people and places most familiar to him, favorite subjects like animals and pumpkins, and even mysterious events and dreams. In Maine, Wyeth often focuses on the buildings and the people rather than the dramatic seascapes so often depicted by other artists. In Pennsylvania, many of his works depict his wife, Phyllis Mills Wyeth, in pursuit of her passion for carriaging, combining monumental scale equine painting with highly personal portraits.
Wyeth’s compositions reflect inspiration drawn from artists as diverse as John Singleton Copley, Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Rockwell Kent, and Edward Hopper, all of whom are represented by works of art in Wyeth’s personal collection. Jamie Wyeth includes portraits of subjects such as John F. Kennedy, Andy Warhol, and Rudolf Nureyev, shown alongside a selection of preparatory drawings and studies that offer a unique insight into the development of his work. Portrait of Shorty (1965), from the collection of Andrew and Betsy Wyeth, has been compared to Copley’s Boy with a Squirrel, a painting which the 18th-century artist sent to England to announce himself to the established art world.Wyeth’s painting, made when he was a teenager, functions in a similar manner, signaling the arrival of a remarkable new talent.
Voyeur, a 2012 painting of Warhol, is a product of the close study Wyeth made of Warhol during their collaboration in the 1970s. “In Voyeur, Warhol’s pale figure materializes on the rocky coast like a restless spirit, eternally watching and recording life through his ever-present camera,” said Amanda C. Burdan, associate curator at the Brandywine River Museum of Art. Warhol reappears in a series of paintings made since 2009, depicting a recurring dream of his artistic mentors–Winslow Homer, Warhol, N.C. Wyeth and Andrew Wyeth–posed in various configurations on the dramatic shore of Monhegan Island.
Other recent works include Sleepwalker (2013) and two mixed media assemblages that the artist calls “tableaux vivants”: The Factory Dining Room and La Côte Basque (2013), both recalling Wyeth’s experiences in New York. Never shown before this exhibition, these two miniature compositions–painted and sculpted at one-sixth life scale–connect Wyeth’s vision to a long tradition of surrealist and realist assemblage, and introduce yet another dimension of the imaginative worlds that inspire his creative process and, ultimately, his compositions.
Jamie Wyeth (MFA Publications, 2014) examines Wyeth’s work within a wide range of realist traditions-including those of his contemporaries and past American masters-giving particular attention to the multifaceted nature of the creative process over the course of the artist’s career. Written by Elliot Bostwick Davis, the John Moors Cabot Chair, Art of the Americas, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, with an essay by David Houston, director of the Bo Bartlett Center, College for the Arts, Columbus State University, Georgia, Jamie Wyeth features 208 pages and 143 color illustrations, and is available in the museum shop and online for $50.
Exhibition Travel Schedule
Organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the exhibition will travel to two additional venues: the San Antonio Museum of Art (April 26-July 5, 2015) and Crystal Bridges Museum of Art (July 23-October 4, 2015). At the Brandywine River Museum of Art, the exhibition is sponsored by Natalie and Herb Kohler on behalf of Kohler Co., and by David and Lisa Spartin. The national tour is sponsored by Bank of America.
The Brandywine River Museum of Art is located on U.S. Route 1 in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, is open daily (except Christmas Day) from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.Admission is $12 for adults; $8 for seniors ages 65 and over; $6 for students and children ages 6-12; free for children under six and Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art members.
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Jamie Wyeth (b. 1946)
Portrait of John F. Kennedy, 1967, oil on canvas.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Partial gift of Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth and partial purchase from the Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund, Emily L. Ainsley Fund, and Robert Jordan Fund, 2014.996, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Jamie Wyeth (b. 1946)
Oil on canvas, 77.5 x 108 cm (30 ½ x 42 ½ in.)
Terra Foundation for American Art
Daniel J. Terra Collection
Jamie Wyeth (b. 1946)
The Headlands of Monhegan Island, Maine, 2007
Oil on canvas