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Friday, November 28, 2014

Wyeth's 'windows' closing at the National Gallery of Art

Andrew Wyeth, Wind from the Sea, 1947, National Gallery of Art, Washington, gift of Charles H. Morgan, c. Andrew Wyeth. 

The painting above, Wind from the Sea, given to the National Gallery of Art by Charles H. Morgan in 2009, is what sparked an exhibition.

It was drawn by Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), one of the most revered of contemporary American artists, who, If he were still alive, would tell you he was not a realist painter, but an abstractionist, and the more you learn about him and see his work, the more you understand. 

He created Wind from the Sea two years after his teacher, mentor, and father, N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945), illustrator of classic tales like Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and 110 other books, died with his grandson in a car crash with a train not far from home.

Andrew said he painted what he lived, scenes drawn from summers in Maine, and his home at Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, where he was born and where he died.
Andrew Wyeth, Cold Spell, 1965, Private Collection.
The blacks, browns, whites and contrasts of winter never looked as romantic as they are in Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In which closes Sunday at the National Gallery of Art, the sole venue for the show.
 Andrew Wyeth, McVey's Barn, 1948, New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT
Andrew Wyeth, Bird in the House, 1979, Private Collection
Andrew Wyeth, Untitled, 1983, The Andrew and Betsy Wyeth Collection

It is easy to be swept away by the wind and stillness which envelop you as you gaze upon Wind from the Sea which opens the show to the 60 Wyeth works of paintings, water colors, and drawings.  Until the National Gallery exhibition. some of the works have never been publicly displayed. 
Andrew Wyeth, Airing Out, 1969, Private Collection
Andrew Wyeth, Drying Room: first version of spare room, 1973. The Andrew and Betsy Wyeth Collection

The collection seems much larger than the 60 pieces which are arranged thematically in four galleries, perhaps owing to their subject matter, the expansiveness of the land, and the windows opening to the outdoors.

While you walk and view the galleries, you may think "aha!" You've found a window missing, and if you look again, there it is.

Some critics claim Wyeth is overrated, but a study of his angles, lines, shadows, winter lights, and contrasts prove them wrong. And his popularity among art enthusiasts is undeniable. Visitors can uncover complexities, geometric patterns, and the abstract in the compositions.

Over the artist's career which spanned some seven decades, he drew more than 300 works with windows, according to his son, Nicholas (b. 1943) who supplied the figure to Nancy K. Anderson, National Gallery curator. 

Upon my second (of five!) trips to the show, at the exit, I stood in the small gift shop set up for Wyeth visitors and surveyed the biography, N.C. Wyeth (David Michaelis, 1998), when a woman rushed up and talked non-stop about 30 minutes about the subject.  "He's much more fascinating than Andrew," she said. 

I read the book, and she was right about its excellence which drove me back last weekend for my second visit this year to the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, about two hours north of Washington, just across the Delaware line, the home of many Wyeth works, and a conservancy.
On the Wyeth property at Brandywine River Museum & Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania/Photo by Patricia Leslie
From a window inside N.C. Wyeth's studio, Brandywine River Museum & Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. N.C.'s and Andrew Wyeth's studios are open to the public for a fee/Photo by Patricia Leslie
At N.C. Wyeth's studio, Brandywine River Museum & Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, /Photo by Patricia Leslie
A close-up of the palette at N.C. Wyeth's studio, Brandywine River Museum & Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 N.C. Wyeth's supplies at his studio, Brandywine River Museum & Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania/Photo by Patricia Leslie

In the near winter, you can stand and study the countrysides, rolling hills, barren trees, and structures, and marvel at Andrew Wyeth's ability to capture what may initially seem like simple things, but made compelling and bewitching by the artist.
From a window at Andrew Wyeth's studio, Brandywine River Museum & Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Some of the artist's sketches on the floor at Andrew Wyeth's studio, Brandywine River Museum & Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 A sign posted at an entrance at the Wyeths' home where Betsy and Andrew Wyeth raised their two sons, Nicholas and Jamie.  A portion of the house served as Andrew Wyeth's studio from 1940 until mid-2008, Brandywine River Museum & Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Sketches of John and Robert Kennedy, drawn by Jamie Wyeth, Andrew's son, at Andrew Wyeth's studio, Brandywine River Museum & Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania/Photo by Patricia Leslie

The National Gallery quotes Andrew Wyeth:  “It’s what’s inside you, the way you translate the object — and that’s pure emotion. I think most people get to my work through the backdoor. They’re attracted by the realism and sense the emotion and the abstraction — and eventually, I hope, they get their own powerful emotion.”  They might have that effect upon you, too.

From a window at Andrew Wyeth's studio, Brandywine River Museum & Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania/Photo by Patricia Leslie

The exhibition would not be possible with the assistance of the Altria Group and the support of the Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts.

The catalogue and exhibition in Washington were produced, directed, and organized by Dr. Anderson, curator and head of the department of American and British paintings, with assistance and contributions from Charles Brock, associate curator, American and British paintings, National Gallery of Art.  The catalogue is almost 200 pages with color plates of the featured works and several essays, one about windows in the art of Wyeth, Charles Sheeler (1883-1965), and Edward Hopper (1882-1967).

Andrew Wyeth is the father of the artist, Jamie Wyeth (b. 1946).

What: Andrew Wyeth:  Looking Out, Looking In

When: Now through November 30, 2014 from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. Sunday


Where: Main Floor, West Building, National Gallery of Art, between Third and Ninth streets at Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. On the Mall.

Admission: No charge

Metro stations: Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Navy Memorial-Archives, or L'Enfant Plaza

For more information: 202-737-4215

At Brandywine River Museum & Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania/Photo by Patricia Leslie

patricialesli@gmail.com

 

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