Thursday, March 05, 2009

Brandywine Road Trip

Yesterday the boys of the Dirty Palette Club and I piled into my Jeep and made a road trip down to the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, PA. It was about a 40 minute road trip from the Academy where I picked everybody up. Besides Will and myself, none of the other guys had been to the museum before, so there was a lot of anticipation and of course rowdy humor on the ride down.I brought along some comics, art magazines and the new Sparrow art book featuring my buddy Bill Wray's work.

I try and go at least once a year, for me it's like traveling to Mecca, going back to the source seeing those paintings by NC Wyeth and Howard Pyle. This is where everything comes from in American Illustration. The best of the best and I get such a charge looking at those painting, and now being in school and learning about painting, and painting more and more myself, I see and learn more on each successive trip. The whole trip was almost worth it just to hear David say "Holy fuck!" under his breath when he walked into the room with NC Wyeth's paintings the first time.

Another thing is that every trip they have something new hanging and this time there were several new paintings from NC and an awesome Dean Cornwell and one by Harvey Dunn.
They also had a few nice plien air paintings by Frank Schoonover, a very nice Daniel Garber, even a Thomas Anshutz, so plenty of painting by former Academy students like ourselves.

After we hit the first two galleries we ate lunch at the museum cafe, then we saw the NC gallery and then the Andrew Wyeth gallery where his granddaughter was giving a little tour. We listened from the side as we looked at his amazing tempera and watercolor paintings. there is no way to really be able to appreciate the amazing subtlety of his work even from the best reproduction. When he passed recently, we really lost a giant in the world of art.

I have often had debates with some fellow students at school who knock his work, say his work is lesser or without merit because there can be a narrative or that it has a sentimentality to it, a melancholy. Once in class we were comparing art by Andrew Wyeth and Antonio Lopez Garcia, and people were all over Wyeth, basically calling him something akin to a Hallmark card artist. I was aghast and told them i thought that was bullshit! I think both artist's work is actually very similar, their love for where they live, the amazing technical ability , the dreamlike quality and the ability to make a moment of time beautiful. I find both artists highly poetic, the main difference I see is that the sunny climate of Spain is very different that the hills of Chadds Ford. Their palette and therefore the atmosphere is divergent there,I feel both of the painters are extremely emotionally honest. Wyeth's granddaughter said in her talk that after Andrew's father died in that car accident with the train, it so profoundly changed him, his art changed, and that he would not have been able to paint something like Christina's World if that hadn't happened to him.

The also had a new section with Jamie Wyeth's painting in the museum, some of which I like very much. It must be hard in a family of such giants to find your own way. There was a portrait painted by Jamie when he was 17 that was just stunning, it is really inspirational to stand in front of such true talent and ability--and it makes me want to do nothing but paint!


Thibaud de Rochebrune said...

I discovered NC Wyeth very recently. Through a blog actually, "Golden age of comics books stories", and i've been amazed by his work. How little we know in europe about american artist like him! I knew Norman Rockwell, and Parish, Frazetta of course...
But discovering NC Wyeth, and Shaeffer, and Pyle, and Dunn was a real echantment.
I was fortunate enought to come and visit NewYork recently and was a little desapointed by the little room was made for them in the MET. The american painters wing was in reorganisation though.
Where do you think is the best place to see their work?

Mike Manley said...

Thibaud, The best place to see the work of Wyeth and Pyle are at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, PA, about 30 minutes south of Philadelphia, and at the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington, Delaware, the museums are about 30 minutes apart.

You are not going to see their work in the Met as by most they are considered mere illustrators, Andrew Wyeth is considered in some circles a fine artist, but the 20th century was brutal to figurative artists, it threw the 19th century under the bus. We are only now starting to see a resurgence in figurative art.

I would also suggest visiting the Society of Illustrators and Illustration house when visiting NYC, both have great collections of the great American Illustrators.

Kelly said...

Well, now I know what the deal is with this museum. Since it's in our current area and just down the street from our real estate agent's office, we've passed it numerous times in the last several months.

Guess Scott and I will have to go see it for ourselves.

Thanks for the post!

Thibaud de Rochebrune said...

Thanks Mike, i'll keep these adress safe until my next visit. It's not yet planned, but knowing what I don't want to miss next time is a good start.

Thanks again!

Michael Dooney said...

that place is a gem. Great paintings,nice store, cool spot and even a nice cafe with big windows...ahhhhh.

EFT Studios said...

Thanks so much for your description of your day in the Brandywine. Makes one feel as though they were almost there...Thank you also for defending Andrew Wyeth. I also am of the same mind as you...and cannot imagine being in such a powerhouse of a family.
A Plein air painting by Schoonover! I am so jealous of the whole trip. This one is definitely going on my list of things to do before I get too old!!!

DreTime said...

I just went to the Brandy River Museum today!