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N.C. Wyeth at the Brandywine River Museum

My husband and I found ourselves in the Wilmington, Delaware area this past weekend, searching for something enjoyable to do. We thought we’d visit Winterthur and stopped at a hotel to ask how to get there. In the office, we saw a brochure for the Brandywine River Museum. My husband scanned the brochure, idly mentioning that a sizable collection of the artwork of the Wyeths was located there. The mention of the name Wyeth captured my interest: I had always liked that painting by Andrew Wyeth called Christina’s World. Within five minutes we changed course and headed for the Brandywine River Museum.

I hadn’t known that Andrew was just one of a family of artists. Before I reached Andrew’s work, I came across the work of Andrew’s father, N.C. Wyeth. I was overwhelmed! The collection featured ten of the seventeen original paintings that N.C. created for the book Treasure Island which became part of Scribner’s Illustrated Classics. The commission was a turning point in his career. With the proceeds he received for the illustrations, he was able to purchase land in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania where he built a home and studio -- a setting which nourished the artistic talents of future family members for decades to come.

I didn't know the story of Treasure Island but the paintings made me want to. Measuring roughly 48" x 36", the paintings were extremely masculine -- big, bold and rugged. They exuded an energy that shouted, “adventure!” One of his works, though less energetic but still intense was the one entitled Wreck of the Covanant in which a man is shown floating in the ocean as a sailing ship looms in the distance. A patch of moonlit sea separates him from the ship, emphasizing his isolation and hopelessness. Every one of the illustrations demonstrated Wyeth's ability to achieve perfect compositional balance and emotional intensity.

There were also paintings by N.C. at the museum for some of the other classics. I especially enjoyed two paintings from The Boy’s King Arthur.” Exhibiting not quite so heavy a hand, these paintings featured knights in detailed maille armor. In addition, three works from The Last of the Mohicans were absolutely stunning. One of them, Fight in the Forest featured a scuffle between two Indians in a beautiful green forest. The way Wyeth handled the dust that was kicked up in the struggle was truly amazing.

The commission for the Treasure Island illustrations was a turning point not only in N.C. Wyeth's career but the endeavors of his family as well. With the proceeds he received from the illustrations, he was able to purchase land in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania where he built a home and studio -- a setting which nourished the artistic talents of future family members for decades to come.

To learn more about the Brandywine River Museum, click here.

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Diana Blake is a professional artist and art history enthusiast. Her fascination with art history began when she encountered European art firsthand during several trips abroad as a young adult. As she began to compose a portfolio for her own art career, she called upon what she had seen in Europe and extended her knowledge to other styles of art through profuse reading and exhaustive research. As a result, Diana has written more than one hundred articles in which she delves into a variety of art history topics and she has compiled a list of links that she believes to be invaluable for art history enthusiasts. In addition, she also reviews books and movies on the topic of art history and has assembled an extensive list of online stores that sell books, movies and gift items related to art history.
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