In mid-September my husband and I made a whirlwind trip to Chadd's Ford, PA to see the Andrew Wyeth retrospective at the Brandywine River Museum of Art. Almost every day since has been filled with conversation about our experience. We've been pouring over the exhibit catalog, reading reviews and articles about Wyeth, watching clips on YouTube, and filling out our evening patio time sharing our thoughts on the "Wyeth world."
Andy (my Andy, not Wyeth) called it a "rich experience" and I think he is spot on. Our day began before the museum opened, waiting in line on the last weekend of the exhibit. Luckily we had purchased our tickets in advance and started with the studio tours. This was probably the best possible way for us to start our day, as both Andrew and N.C.'s studios immersed you in their world; one that is far from possible in this day and age. Andrew was tutored at home, his father built in daily opportunities for play with the entire family, imagination was encouraged, summers were spent in Maine...even then, it was a charmed life. But with a view from inside that life, you can see Andrew Wyeth's paintings in full color all around you...the waving, tall grasses around his studio, the bucket leaned up against the cellar entrance, costumes and WWI ephemera. The way in which the docents dramatically reveal the studios is a delight--like Willy Wonka opening his door to the candy garden with a chocolate river.
The exhibit itself was enriched by our earlier experiences in the day. While very crowded, to the point of claustrophobic, it was a nice bookend to the tours. We walked through a mostly chronological retrospective and then visited the work of N.C. and Jamie to round out the visit. Even after the obligatory gift shop visit and a walk around the grounds, we still finished much earlier than expected. So on the way back to the hotel, we stopped in at the Octoberfest party being held at Chaddsford Winery. I have a sneaking suspicion that every weekend in the fall is a party at Chaddsford, but we enjoyed ourselves. In an effort to give Andy the full treatment, we had dinner that eveningin true PA fashion...at an inn, the Dilworthtown Inn.
My parents are Wyeth fans and I grew up with prints from their visits to the Brandywine. That early exposure had a significant impact on my relationship to art. I am enthralled by detail, I value an artists ability towards realism, and I treasure the Wyeth family contribution to an American aesthetic. While the "art world" may not value these things, the Wyeth's are the common mans artist heroes and I'm happy to be among their ranks.