I’ve spent most lunch hours over the last six months reading through the letters of N.C. Wyeth. The book itself is over three inches thick and, with my increasingly distracted and dissembling attention span, I thought it might be a resource volume to be dipped into at random and occasionally. But I have been enthralled and am enjoying reading each entry in order, living his life along with him and the family, and taking myself back to the early days of Chadds Ford, a place I know well.
We are members of the Brandywine River Museum and when I read that they were showing some of the early paintings that he did for the Philadelphia Sketch Society I was determined to go. The show closes tomorrow and inspite of our both being sick…again…we packed up our lozenges and water bottles and tissue boxes and trundled off to the Brandywine Valley yesterday.
I am only up to the winter of 1910 in the Wyeth letters and N.C. has just gone to NYC to meet Canon Doyle ( love the synthesis there…re the last blog entry ) for whom he illustrated several stories. So too was the synthesis of being able to view paintings that he had worked on during this period while reading about the comings and goings of the young Wyeth family and the back country lives in the sleepy village of Chadds Ford.
Most of the compositions were landscapes which N.C. writes about wanting to focus on rather than the increasingly obligatory illustrations. During these early years he’s been bemoaning the desire to paint “true” artistic works for himself but also for his mother who seems to keep harping on him to paint “nicer” subjects which I read as quaint and peaceful rather than swashbuckling and verile.
And so he did with the pastoral impressionistic scenes of the orchards outside his studio and the almost pointalistic plein air studies. Very far removed from his bold narrative work with it’s heavy but confident brushwork. The contrast fades to misty sun dappled haze and the edges blur away from realism into a dreamy wash. Which does echo the struggles he describes in the letters of this period wherein the pages drip of angst as he searches to define the emotionally charged connection he has with the natural world around him.
But then I digress and descend into the world of the critics and I don’t have the bonafides to pretend to that ilk.
The exhibition was an interesting diversion and I’m looking forward to diving back into his narrative over my salad today.
There were two other treats on our visit…lunch at the Simon Pearce Factory where we enjoyed the plumage of the Red Hat Society Octogenerians…
and the Shanks Antiques Barn in Oxford, PA. Our friend Tom Gilbert told us about this place and it was amazing. We were short on time so we concentrated on the basement which stored the largest collection of old hardware I have ever seen. Wicked cool…
You need it Bill’s got it…including the proverbial kitchen sink !
I highly recommend a visit …I know we’ll be back.
For now it’s the last push to get this Menemsha painting done and then on to some smaller pieces… tick tick tick.