By all standards, Andrew Wyeth, over the course of decades, has produced an outstandingly consistent body of work whose nature cannot be denied. As much as modernist critics find him stuck in a "realist" mode, and post-modernistic critics decry him as irrelevant, Wyeth holds firm to his own vision and maintains a true direction that can only be described as uniquely his. To be a movement unto one’s self is to defiantly sail against all art-world critical dogma.
Wyeth seems to defy anyone who would suggest his stance outside contemporary trends makes him a footnote of art history. Instead, he continues to probe his own vision and seek his own solutions regardless of "modern" thought. As much as this must stick in the craw of the critical establishment, it is an absolute delight for folks who like to look at pictures and find mental refreshment and spiritual nutrition.
If your eyes are in need of a bit of refreshment and your spirit needs a boost, get yourself to the Brandywine River Museum for two special shows — one that glitters with gold, the other that glitters with a goddess, both full of Wyeth.
"Works by Andrew Wyeth and Golden Impressions by Donald Pywell," provides some 18 Wyeth works and their interpretations into gold by Pywell, a jeweler. This show runs through Jan. 11.
The second, "Ericksons by Andrew Wyeth," comprises more than 30 works by Wyeth of Siri Erickson and her family, and runs through April 11.
Perversely, a look at the second show is in order. There are nudes of a 13-year-old — going on 14-year-old — girl. They are unswerving in their directness and for many of us, that is only one of their wonders. For others, perhaps those who were caught up in the marketing of the nudes done much later of a Chadds Ford neighbor, Helga Testorf, these paintings may be too much. One noted Australian critic working in America, Robert Hughes, was so taken in by the hoopla surrounding the Helga nudes that he has since then very loudly denounced Wyeth. In this case, the vitriol has harmed Hughes more than Wyeth.
Nevertheless, Siri Erickson’s nudes are stunningly beautiful and it takes a while for the viewer to realize that all people are beautiful when stripped of societal demands. Wyeth thought of the pictures as being a series with other "families" that he had done. Possibly his most famous painting, Christina’s World, was a part of the "Olsen" family series. In a 1997 Horizon magazine article, Wyeth said, "To me, these paintings of the young Siri are a continuation of the Olsens and, at the same time, they are sharp contractions to the portraits of Christina, which symbolize the deterioration and the dwindling of something. In a way, this was not a figure, but a burst of life."
In an uncharacteristic quote regarding his work, Wyeth said of one of the most directly naked of the nudes, "I really like the painting because it has a kind of mythical quality. I even thought of her connection with … the early Finnish legend about an elk and a beautiful girl and the combination of the two. I never consider it a nude painting. I consider it more than that."
The second show is less interesting but still worth a look as it involves the translation of Wyeth’s works into gold jewelry. Pywell is a skilled sculptor who lives in the area and over the years has found inspiration in Wyeth’s work. SPR
Works by Andrew Wyeth and Golden Impressions by Donald Pywell
through Jan. 11
and Ericksons by Andrew Wyeth
through April 11
Brandywine River Museum
Routes 1 and 100, Chadds Ford
Museum admission: $5 adults, $2.50 seniors and students, free for children under 6