Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Day of Art at Brandywine River Museum, PA

On Sunday we left Delaware and stopped at Chadds Ford again, not to sample more wine, but to look around the Brandywine River Museum, a beautiful nineteenth century grist mill converted into a museum and art gallery to avoid over development in the area. It showcases the Wyeth family of artists, has paintings from family members as well as a house and studio.
We went on the house and studio tour first, just a small group of 8 (again!), and I was ecstatic to be greeted by another huge clump of bluebells nestled under some trees when we arrived.
N.C. Wyeth was one of America's most famous illustrators and produced paintings for many books. With the proceeds from his illustrations for Treasure Island he purchased 18 acres in 1911 and built this house and studio. After he and his wife passed away, his daughter Carolyn lived here until her death in 1994, after which the property became a museum. Very little has been changed, the furniture and furnishings are as they were when the house was lived in apart from rearranging on occasion.
These beautifully crocheted canopies on the beds were gorgeous.
We then walked around to the studio, a beautiful large open room with daylight flooding in through floor to ceiling windows.
This is the last painting N.C. Wyeth was working on before his death in 10945, a tragic accident in which his car, carrying him and his grandson Nathaniel, was hit by a freight train while they were crossing the rail line in Chadds Ford. Both were killed.
He stood on this huge set of stairs when painting large murals.
I found this message scribbled on a wall at the far end of the studio but can't decipher it fully.
The studio was full of many props that he used in his artwork, bottles, wooden shapes, busts, everyday ornaments, so many items, even a small room full of more props was next door. His palette and brushes were on a table, easels leaned against a wall and his smock hung on a cabinet, stiff with years of paint that had dried hard on the front and sleeves. It seemed such a shame that this space wasn't still being used for painting, I could feel a creative aura hanging heavy as I slowly walked around, so that after a while I was itching to squeeze some paint from a tube and spread some daubs on a canvas.
The shuttle took us back to the museum where we then started looking at the galleries on three floors.
Other artist's works are displayed here along with the Wyeth family paintings and one who really caught my interest was Howard Pyle. He was also an illustrator of books but he has produced many pieces that also tell a story by themselves. I've included two of my favorites but when reading up on him, I discovered many more pictures that I absolutely adored, Some of his painting have a Pre-Raphaelite quality such as The Mermaid below, which unfortunately wasn't on display here at Brandywine.
'Traveling in the Olden Time' by Howard Pyle, c. 1886
'Viewing the Battle of bunker Hill' by Howard Pyle, 1901
I liked a lot of N.C. Wyeth's paintings, and even recognized a few from books I'd read in younger years. He had a wonderful ability to capture light well in his art. I've included my favorites of his below.
'Washington at Yorktown' by N.C. Wyeth, 1938, for a book cover of Victory at Yorktown by Newt Gingrich. Wonderful to see the sketch he drew before painting the final image.
 Endpapers for the book, 1919, Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper.
Illustration, 1916, for Robert Louis Stephenson's book, The Black Arrow.
" And Lawless, keeping a half-step in front of his companion and holding his head forward like a hunting-dog upon the scent,...studied out their path."
 'In a Dream I meet General Washington", 1030. This painting was big and crammed with detail. Carolyn and I wondered if the steps he was standing on were the ones in his studio.
And then we came across some paintings by his grandson, Jamie, who is very good at painting animals.
 'Portrait of a Pig' by Jamie Wyeth, 1970. A wonderful story lies behind this painting and is told by the artist below.
"When I first met Den-Den at the Ball farm Den-Den had the run of the place. One day I was working, and Bill said the cattle had gotten out and asked could I help him put them in. So I left what I was working on. I went down and an hour later I came back up the hill when I heard snorting. I thought, 'Oh my God, the pig has gotten into where I am painting.' Of course it was just right open. So I started yelling as I ran up the hill. Den-Den stuck her head around the corner, and her whole snout was covered with cerulean blue, cadmium orange and lemon yellow. She had eaten some twenty-two tubes of oil paint. I thought, 'That is the end of her.' Oil paint is highly toxic. It can kill a dog just like that. I thought, 'That's curtains for this pig.'
"And the next day I arrived in the morning expecting to find a corpse. She was perfectly fine, walking around snorting away, and of course all these rainbow colored droppings were everywhere, and Bill kept saying, 'What in the hell is wrong with my pig?' I didn't tell him, I was terrified. Months later they were sending her to the butcher. I thought, 'Oh my God, I can't have that.' By consuming and surviving twenty-two tubes of paint, she had endeared herself to me. So I took her to our farm at Point Lookout. 'Portrait of a Pig' was painted at Point Lookout."
I was so taken with this delightful tale and had an exact image in my mind of how dear old Den-Den must have looked when she peered round the corner at Jamie and so I got to work in Photoshop and came up with the image below. I'm going to hang this in my kitchen!
 Part of 'Angus' also by Jamie in 1974.
Afterwards we pottered outside on the riverbank, upsetting a garter snake's sunbathing, and then had lunch inside before getting on the road and heading home. We'd had a simply marvelous weekend, and after engulfing each other in huge bear hugs during our farewells, we promised we'd have another adventure together again soon. Can't wait!


Mary Wilson said...

Great write up Debby of a great weekend. Looking forward to next time.

Carolyn said...

You captured our day at Brandywine River Museum brilliantly. Thanks for recording everything and the pictures are terrific. See you soon. Carolyn

Debby Karalee said...

Thanks ladies! roll on the next event!