Brandywine River Museum

Yesterday, we went to the Brandywine River Museum in PA. This is a museum of American art including three generations of Wyeths (NC, Andrew, Jamie, Caroline, to name a few.) This is one of the greatest museums I’ve visited. It is small but not too small – just right for a day’s visit. There are also tours of the Wyeth residence and studio but we got caught up in the paintings and didn’t make it out of the museum.

NC Wyeth was known to me, and I’m sure to many others, as an illustrator of children’s books, especially Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. We owned a version of that book while I was growing up and I always associate his pictures with the story. Now, I carry the cover art poster at my store ( But his painting of The Giant I had seen before and it just reaches out and grabs me.

I think it might because the kids are playing at the beach (one of my favorite places to be) and their imagination to create the giant. I often see things in the clouds … I appreciate this on a very personal level.

Andrew Wyeth is known for his paitings of the Brandywine Valley. There is one displayed that is just called Me that is just so beautiful. It is a study of his mill reflecting in the Brandywine River and he is sitting in the foreground in a bright blue coat (the only bright color in the picture). It is one of the first things you see when you walk into his exhibit and it just knocked me out. There is another of his paintings of his dog Nell asleep on a burlap bag. His attention to detail in his paintings is unreal – you can see and almost feel the sharp scratchiness of the burlap and the fraying edges of the material. Each individual hair on Nell is shown. And the look on her face as she’s sleeping – I have seen that look on my animals over the years. This is coming from a dog lover – it shows through.

Jamie Wyeth’s portraits and studies of Rudolph Nureyev are very true to life. I met Nureyev in one of my many careers – this one with Columbia Artists Management Inc. (who represented him) when I was just out of college. There is one painting of the dancer as he is making his entrance in the ballet Don Quixote that captures the movement, speed, and pure power as he is about to leap. You fully expect him to continue through the painting and out the other side. However, it was Jamie’s more whimsical paintings that really struck a chord with me. There is one of a pumpkin field that is almost misted over – the colors are muted except for one pumpkin which is being carved into a jack-o-lantern and the bright yellow eyes shine out through the painting. But the top has not been cut off so the pumpkin is being carved from the inside out. That so fit with my sense of humor … I loved it! I also really liked one of a wolf laying on a wooden door which was lying flat on the floor – evidently he was looking for dinner.

One of the best parts of the museum was taking the tour with Victoria Wyeth, Andrew’s granddaughter and Jamie’s niece. She did two tours, each a 1/2 hour long. She only discusses Andrew and Jamie’s works but the background she gives to them was fascinating. She gives the stories behind the paintings which makes them so personal for the viewer. You are allowed to see what the artist was thinking while they painted those few paintings. (Hence, how I knew the pumpkin was being carved from the inside and about the wolf at the door.) This was such a wonderful and unexpected addition to the trip, as we didn’t realize it was offered.

Starting Saturday, 9/8/07, they are opening an exhibit of children’s illustrations. We caught a glimpse of a small part of the exhibit but I hope to go back and see the whole thing. It’s really a good thing I have my store because it allows me to wallow in children’s things that I will never be too old to appreciate. These paintings will fit right in too. I got some postcards that are a preview of what is to come …

I would also love to see the studio and the house that are featured in Andrew Wyeth’s work, although for some parts, it would seem like re-visiting an old friend’s house because you see it so vividly in his work. I strongly recommend anyone who is interested in the work of the Wyeth clan to visit this museum. Not only is the work exceptional, the location and the building it is housed in are beautiful. I can’t wait to go back!


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