Works from Three Generations of Wyeths on Display at Heritage

Paul Revere by NC Wyeth, Courtesy of The Hill School, Pottstown, Pennsylvania

“Paul Revere” by NC Wyeth, Courtesy of The Hill School, Pottstown, Pennsylvania

SANDWICH – The art of three generations of the Wyeth family of painters is on display this summer at Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich.

Works of NC Wyeth; his son, Andrew Wyeth; and Andrew’s son, Jamie Wyeth, are all part of the exhibit, “The Wyeths: America Reflected.” In all, 45 paintings and drawings are on display, including rarely seen works on loan from private collections.

Ellen Spear, president and CEO of Heritage Museums and Gardens, said, “Heritage Museums and Gardens is honored to bring the evocative artistry of three generations of the Wyeth family to the Cape. Just as one generation of artist is inspired by the next, this exhibit will create opportunities for families to inspire and learn from each other. An important part of the Wyeth family legacy is their representation of America. The works in the show are beautiful visualizations of our country and culture and make for an outstanding and provocative exhibit.”

Spear said that while the works of the three painters are different, there are several themes that carry through all three of the artists’ works.

Patriotism is a major one, and the meaning of America is one of the themes that can be seen in the works of all three artists.

"Nathan Hale" by NC Wyeth, Courtesy of The Hill School, Pottstown, Pennsylvania

“Nathan Hale” by NC Wyeth, Courtesy of The Hill School, Pottstown, Pennsylvania

“This is three different views of patriotism from three different generations,” Spear said. “Each generation speaks to the next and each generation talks back to the one before.”

Other themes whose threads weave throughout the exhibit are the significance of family and a sense of place and the role of story-telling in art. These are prominent subjects for the three artists, according to Spear.

She said no background in art is required to enjoy the exhibit.

“What’s great about this exhibit is people who know nothing about the Wyeths will get a great deal out of it and the art aficionado will see paintings they’ve maybe never seen before. There are many works drawn from private collections that aren’t seen regularly,” she said. “It really appeals to all ages and all levels of knowledge.”

NC Wyeth, Spear said, is perhaps best known as the illustrator of classic children’s books like “Robinson Crusoe” and “Treasure Island.”

In the exhibit, NC Wyeth’s 16 oil paintings from “Poems of American Patriotism,” depicting Revolutionary heroes, and American leaders, including George Washington, Paul Revere and Abraham Lincoln—serve as the artistic introduction to America’s foundations, according to Spear.

"Carney Gull #1", © Jamie Wyeth. Collection of Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth

“Carney Gull #1”, © Jamie Wyeth. Collection of Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth

From there, landscapes by Andrew Wyeth speak to the importance of place, both on land and at sea, in the formation of American identity, Spear said.

Spear pointed to “Christina’s World,” the iconic painting of the woman on the lawn looking up at the house,” as an Andrew Wyeth painting that many people are familiar with. His controversial “Helga” pictures are also well-known. Spear called his paintings, “beautiful stark works.”

Lastly images by Jamie Wyeth, Spear said, examine figures of our times and the mystery and mortality in American culture.

Jamie Wyeth, Spear pointed out, is a contemporary portrait artist who was the official court artist for the Watergate Hearings, “so he is someone who has chronicled our times.”

The exhibition is as much about the trio of artists themselves as their works of art. It is accompanied by photographs of each artist, an introductory text and text panels for each artist with biographical and thematic information.

When pressed to name favorite paintings in the exhibit, Spear picked one from each painter. For NC Wyeth, she chose the image from the Civl War story of Barbara Frietchie waving the flag and saying, “Shoot, if you must, this old gray head, but spare Your country’s flag.”

"Gull Rising", © Jamie Wyeth. Private Collection.

“Gull Rising”, © Jamie Wyeth. Private Collection.

Of Andrew Wyeth’s works on display, Spear chose one called “Pole Fence,” which, she said is, “a beautiful watercolor.”

Her favorite by Jamie Wyeth, she said, is one entitled, “Gulls Rising.”

Spear said the exhibit fits well into the museum’s mission and collection of 12,000 art and history objects.

“What we like to do is dive deeper into American history and American themes by bringing the best we can find from around the country and arguably there’s no better known family of artists than the Wyeths. We’re thinking a lot about family and what artist or artists could facilitate family learning,” Spear said.

She said the idea for the exhibit began with museum officials knowing about NC Wyeth’s paintings depicting scenes of American history and how that would work well with the museum’s permanent collection called The Heritage Collecton, which is also on display this summer.

“Then we began to think about how we can create that dialogue. It was natural to try to find works from all three generations,” she said.

The Wyeth exhibit is on display through September 27.
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