The Brandywine Valley is a storied region that has many treasures linked to the small but mighty river that flows through it. That river has nourished those living and working along its banks – in myriad ways – for untold years. Just 10 miles from Wilmington one of those well-loved creative offshoots – the Brandywine Museum of Art – where the work of Andrew Wyeth is now holding pride of place.
Easily accessed from U.S. Route 1, this Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania museum is scenically situated on banks of the Brandywine River in a former grist mill. Saved from demolition and renovated with a dramatic steel and glass addition that overlooks the water, the elegant building retains its basic colonial construction and highlights its rural roots. The Museum also embraces the mission of its sister institution, the Brandywine Conservancy, and on its walls are often featured artists whose work focuses on this region and on the environment. On view now is an expansive exhibition that embraces both.
Andrew Wyeth: Home Places (through July 13, 2023) looks deeply at its surroundings through the eyes of one of its most famous native sons. Over his long and storied career, Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) artistically chronicled the Brandywine Valley, where he lived and worked all his life. Born in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, Andrew was the youngest son of legendary illustrator N.C. Wyeth, and he learned to draw in his father’s studio.
Tuning his vision intimately – and constantly – to his immediate surroundings, Wyeth was fascinated by a small group of old, sometimes-overlooked buildings right around his home. Over seven decades, he meticulously chronicled these structures – in paintings, watercolors, and drawings – and Home Places brings them into clear and radiant focus, celebrating the poetry of the everyday.
Many of the 50 works on view – drawn from the 7,000-objects in the newly formed Andrew & Betsy Wyeth Collection, part of the Wyeth Foundation for American Art – have never before been seen. The artworks were chosen by William L. Coleman, the Museum’s newly installed Wyeth Foundation Curator. Coleman is also the Director of the Andrew and Betsy Wyeth Study Center, and among the future projects planned are the publication of Wyeth’s complete works, called a “catalog raisonné.”
“You can be in a place for years and years and not see something, and then when it dawns, all sorts of nuggets of richness start popping all over the place. You’ve gotten below the obvious.”
- Andrew Wyeth
Home Places is divided into six sections. The first discusses the “material history” of the area – the vernacular architecture and building materials of these early houses. The following five sections each focus on a building of particular importance to the artist. On view are Wyeth’s preliminary drawings, as well as his finished works, allowing a revealing insight into how his relationship with these structures evolved over time. Wyeth has said that “you can be in a place for years and years and not see something, and then when it dawns, all sorts of nuggets of richness start popping all over the place. You’ve gotten below the obvious.”
Always on view at the Brandywine is the Museum’s expansive permanent collection of the region’s artists and illustrators, including iconic works by Andrew Wyeth and his son Jamie. As well, there’s a gift shop stocked with books, cards, prints, jewelry, and other Wyeth- or nature-focused gift items, including a newly published Home Places volume. You can take a lunch break at the Museum’s Millstone Café or one of several nearby restaurants. And Chadds Ford has a small country post office where you can mail those postcards!
Easily accessible along the Route 1 corridor, the Museum has bucolic riverfront walking paths on its grounds and maintains mown paths through the adjacent fields. A short bus ride from the building are the Wyeth family studios, once again open for visitors to tour.
History is all around you here. Further down Route 1 you’ll find the Revolutionary War-era Brandywine Battlefield, and if you drive north on Route 100, you can follow the still-beautiful river as it meanders through trees and fields and experience how past meets present. Start planning your visit at VisitWilmingtonDE.com.