The Brandywine River Art Museum in Chadds Ford, PA is set in the scenic Brandywine River Valley, housed in a converted 19th century grist mill on the banks of the river. It holds thousands of works of art and features the Wyeth family, spanning 3 generations of amazing talent.
One of America’s foremost illustrators of the 20th century was N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945). First famous for his work in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Wyeth continued illustrating for numerous books and magazines, as well as murals and advertising posters. He studied under Howard Pyle in Wilmington, DE, who founded the “Brandywine School” style of painting. Later, he focused on still lifes, portraits and landscapes. Much of his work features the local scenery of the Brandywine Valley region. He settled in Chadds Ford in 1907, where he remained until his death in 1945.
Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), son of N.C. Wyeth, was one of America’s most important artists of the twentieth century. Trained by his father, Andrew painted in watercolor and egg tempera, and specialized in landscapes of his hometown region of Chadds Ford and mid-coast Maine, where he spent summers. He painted in a realist style, after the likes of Winslow Homer or Thomas Eakins.
Jamie Wyeth (b.1946) is the youngest child of Andrew. He studied under the guidance of his father and aunt (Carolyn Wyeth), and gained early attention for his work in portrait painting, including one of John F. Kennedy. His style has been consistent with his father’s realism, but goes beyond, as he uses multiple forms of media and surfaces in his painting. Some note the distinction that Jamie infuses a lightness or humor in much of his work.
The original works of this family of artists (and there are a few more, including Andrew’s sisters, Henriette, Carolyn and Ann) command high prices at auction. Recent sales of N.C. Wyeth paintings have brought, on average, $400,000-800,000 each. Some can bring much more. “Hands Up” sold for $4,951,500 at Christie’s in 2016! Paintings by Andrew Wyeth sell currently for $75,000-300,000 on average, and Jamie Wyeth commands $25,000-50,000. His popular “Pumpkinhead, Self-Portrait” sold at Sotheby’s for $1,690,000 in 2016. As with most things in the world of antiques and appraising, art values do fluctuate. But the Wyeth family consistently proves desirable with collectors, especially those in Pennsylvania and Maine. If you think you have an original work of art (not a print) by N.C., Andrew or Jamie Wyeth, you may want to consider getting a professional appraisal done to safeguard and document your art.
If you are like most of us, and do not own a Wyeth, The Brandywine River Museum of Art is the best place to experience these artists. The museum was opened in 1971 by the Brandywine Conservancy, which was founded in 1967 to protect and conserve the area’s natural, cultural and scenic resources. The conservancy has grown to thousands of members and volunteers, and continues to work for responsible land use, open space preservation, water protection and environmental education. The beautiful grounds of the museum are a testament to their efforts. A steel and glass walled addition provides wonderful views of the Brandywine as you tour the museum. Outside, there are native plant gardens and paths to walk along the water. Available tours include the NC Wyeth House and Studio, Andrew Wyeth’s studio, and the Kuerner Farm nearby (where Andrew drew much inspiration for his work).
In addition to the Wyeth family, many other artists are represented here. Howard Pyle, Benjamin West, Asher Durand, William Harnett, John Haberle, Horace Pippin, and George Cope are just a few. The museum has multiple special exhibits and programs throughout the year. You can even catch a jazz concert in the courtyard! The museum is located on Route 1 in Chadds Ford, southwest of Philadelphia and just north of Wilmington, DE. For more information about this beautiful spot to enjoy both art and nature, visit www.brandywine.org.