The Wyeth Foundation for American Art recently announced that it has established a collection-sharing arrangement managed by Brandywine Valley’s own Brandywine River Museum of Art. The concept will ensure Andrew and Betsy Wyeth’s extensive collection is available to the public.
The Foundation’s collection, assembled primarily by Betsy who was Andrew Wyeth’s wife and muse, carefully documents the career of the famed artist. The collection is deeply personal and gives significant insight into Wyeth’s artistic and career trajectory. It comprises nearly 7,000 works from across Wyeth’s seven decades as a working artist with rarely seen paintings, watercolors, sketches, and sketchbooks.
The Wyeth Foundation collection will be located jointly at the Brandywine River Museum of Art and the Farnsworth Art Museum located in Rockland, Maine. Rotating presentations of works will be on view in both museums throughout the year.
The Brandywine River Museum of Art, based in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, focuses on American art and has a longstanding relationship with the Wyeth family. The museum has generated some of the most well-received exhibitions and scholarships on three generations of Wyeth family artists. In 2017, the Brandywine’s Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect exhibition presented more than 100 of the artist’s most important paintings and works on paper, along with a catalog publishing new perspectives on his work and career.
“We are so excited to formalize a partnership with the Brandywine River Museum of Art and the Farnsworth Art Museum to ensure that Andrew and Betsy Wyeth’s collection is well-maintained and available for the public to enjoy,” said J. Robinson West, President of the Wyeth Foundation for American Art’s Board of Trustees. “The Wyeth family is closely connected to both Chadds Ford and coastal Maine with long relationships with both of these institutions. This collection's management arrangement draws on the expertise of these two great museums in managing works of art, while underscoring the mission of the Foundation to support scholarship and exhibitions of Wyeth’s work, now and into the future, both at these two museums and around the world.”
The Foundation recently announced that it has given an outright gift to the Brandywine River Museum of Art of close to 200 pieces of art formerly in the collection of Andrew and Betsy Wyeth. Highlights of the gift include over 40 works by N. C. Wyeth, whose letters were published by Betsy Wyeth in 1970, leading to a major reconsideration of his career. Also included are more than 30 works by Howard Pyle, as well as paintings and drawings by Daniel Garber, Carolyn Wyeth, Henriette Wyeth Hurd, Peter Hurd, John McCoy, George A. “Frolic” Weymouth and others. This gift further strengthens the Brandywine’s deep holdings of works by N. C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, Henriette and Carolyn Wyeth, and Jamie Wyeth—all of whom resided nearby. The museum also owns and operates N. C. Wyeth’s House and Studio, Andrew Wyeth’s Studio and the Kuerner Farm, ensuring that all three National Historic Landmarks are maintained and open to the public.
“We are thrilled by this generous and transformative gift that will greatly enhance Brandywine’s already extensive assemblage of landscape painting and American illustration, giving the Museum the largest collection of art by N. C. Wyeth and very significant holdings of work by Howard Pyle,” said Thomas Padon, the James H. Duff Director of the Brandywine River Museum of Art. This follows a historic gift to the Farnsworth of 26 works by three generations of Wyeth family artists from Betsy Wyeth’s collection made through the Wyeth Foundation in summer 2021.
The Collection of the Wyeth Foundation for American Art
The Foundation’s collection is both broad and deep, yet many of the works have never been exhibited publicly. Among the unusual elements are 70 of Wyeth’s oil paintings, works principally from the 1930s, when he experimented with the medium before adopting egg tempera and watercolor as his preferred mediums. These paintings—such as Fox Grass Below Adams (1934), currently on view at the Brandywine—reflect prevalent themes, yet their style and approach demonstrate his evolution as an artist over his entire career. Wyeth is best known for his egg tempera paintings, 48 of which are in the collection, including his 1966 tribute to his wife Betsy, titled Maga’s Daughter, Black Hunter (1938), a rare example of an early tempera and Wyeth’s last major painting, Goodbye (2008), which has rarely been seen publicly. The collection features over 2,000 of Wyeth’s watercolors, for which he is renown—many rendered using the “dry brush” technique.
The largest part of the collection contains more than 4,000 drawings: some are finished drawings, some are preparatory drawings and sketches, some are study pieces for works he would later paint in tempera or watercolor, and many are still in their original sketchbooks. From the fully rendered work in pencil, My Sister (1967), to a casual portrait of his father, Pa Writing at his Desk (1942), to tempera studies for major paintings such as That Gentleman Study (1961) these drawings will provide a vast trove of information that reveal Wyeth’s thought process and experimentation with how to stage or represent different scenes.
“Andrew Wyeth is truly an iconic artist. In a career spanning over seven decades, he developed a singular style, creating some of the most haunting compositions in American art,” added TPadon. “Focusing on the landscapes, people and objects he knew in Chadds Ford and in Maine, where he summered throughout his life, his art is as personal as it is timeless.”
The Brandywine River Museum of Art is a jewel in the Greater Wilmington and Brandywine Valley region and features an outstanding collection of American art housed in a 19th-century mill building with a dramatic steel and glass addition overlooking the banks of the Brandywine. Learn more about the museum and its collection at brandywine.org/museum.