Andrew Wyeth was very much a painter of place, obsessively depicting the people and surroundings in his native Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, as well as those of mid-coast Maine, where he spent his summers beginning as a young boy.
On March 16, when the newly reinstalled Andrew Wyeth gallery opens at the Brandywine River Museum of Art, eight of the artist’s Maine subjects will be on view. All but one of these paintings are loans that have not been shown previously at the Brandywine. Among these are examples of Wyeth’s vibrant Maine watercolors, painted along the coastline in the late 1930s through the early 1940s. Exploding with intense transparent color and vigor, these works have often been compared to paintings by Winslow Homer. In addition, representations of Christina Olson and the Olson property—Maine subjects that became for Wyeth metaphors for timelessness, delicacy, and dignity—will be shown in the gallery. Also on view will be iconic Pennsylvania subjects very familiar to visitors, such as "Spring Fed," "Roasted Chestnuts," "Adam," and "Night Sleeper."
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Welcome to the #IdesOfArt! On the 15th of each month, we’ll take you on a deep dive exploring the story behind different works of art, photographs or exhibitions being developed here at the Brandywine River Museum of Art. Our first subject is, fittingly, Andrew Wyeth’s “Ides of March.” This painting, which was the subject of an exhibition at the Museum in 2013, features the fireplace located in the artist’s home in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.
In “Ides of March,” Andrew Wyeth demonstrated his keen powers of observation and his masterful orchestration of forms and space. Wyeth described the subject in an interview with Thomas Hoving: “That’s my dog Rattler sleeping in front of the fireplace in the Mill [the Wyeth home] in Pennsylvania. March. He’d lie there and watch the glow of the sparks, and he’d look over at me. The only sound was the sound of the embers of the fire from the night before and the sparks rising, sort of hissing or popping as they did. A portrait of a wonderful dog.” (Quote from Thomas Hoving, “Andrew Wyeth, Autobiography,” 1995, page 11). Dogs appear frequently in Wyeth’s paintings, often serving as the artist’s alter ego, expressing his desire for anonymity and complete freedom of thought. Through the dogs, he imagined escaping any sense of consciousness of his own body, giving himself over to experiencing the world through their eyes.
Wyeth’s “Ides of March” is one of just a handful of works for which he created over sixty preliminary studies, signifying the importance that the project held for him. As was typical of Wyeth, he chose not to discuss any further meaning behind the painting. “Ides of March” thus remains an enigmatic image, inviting speculation.
To learn more about the painting, its relationship to Wyeth’s “French Twist” painting and to see the many dozens of studies Wyeth created, check out the link to our exhibition catalogue in our profile.
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