Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Brandywine Museum and Andrew Wyeth Studio

I recently had the chance to visit the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania - one of my absolute favorite museums.  Not only is it the largest display of the Wyeth family's work, but its location next to the river is stunning.  The museum building is an adaptive reuse of an 1864 grist mill, with the museum's design retaining much of its original character.  A new feature of the museum is the tour of Andrew Wyeth's nearby studio where he painted from 1940 until 2008.  Originally a school house, it became abandoned and later purchased by N.C. Wyeth for his son Andrew and his wife, Betsy.  They later moved to larger quarters, but kept the house as a dedicated art studio for Andrew and his son, Jamie.  

A sign posted on the exterior door of the studio clearly demonstrates how Andrew Wyeth valued his privacy.

Passing through the door into his single room painting studio (which Andrew always kept locked),  I was surprised at the utter starkness of the space.  The walls were unfinished with a few study sketches pinned up with additional sketches strewn around the bare wood floor.  In the center stood a large yet simple wooden easel with a dressing mirror opposite it. 

He would occasionally glance in the mirror to check his work as a reversed image can sometimes provide a different perspective.

Little else occupied the room - a few tables for mixing the egg tempera paint he used in his work, jars of dry pigments and a carton of eggs. 

The studio had the stark, austere look of one his paintings, but to stand in the same room where Andrew Wyeth created so many great American masterpieces was an amazing personal experience and a unique privilege.

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