By ELIZABETH JOHNS
Special to The Herald-Mail
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The Wyeths might be the best-known American family of artists.
The larger-than-life patriarch of the family, N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945), illustrated tales of adventure by such authors as Robert Louis Stevenson.
His son, Andrew (1917-2009), with whom he had a complex relationship, chose the painstaking medium of egg tempera, which his father had not used, to paint rural topics that both summoned and subdued memories of his childhood. His spare paintings of Maine and Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Valley hang in several museums and in reproduction on many admirers’ walls.
From about 1948 in urban American popular culture, the work of Andrew Wyeth took center stage, influencing painters who treasured the rapidly disappearing farms of the countryside, with their equipment, animals and fields.
Andrew’s son, James “Jamie” B. Wyeth, who was born 1946, has continued the families’ attention to the past in Chadd’s Ford, Pa., and coastal Maine, but has worked in media and taken assignments that his father and grandfather did not.
The Wyeth family of artists was not limited to lineal descent nor to just the three most well-known members of the family. As a celebration of the Washington County Museum of Fine Art’s 80th anniversary, the museum will present “The Wyeth Family of Artists,” which will present works by the larger Wyeth family, including sisters and brothers, in-laws, nieces and nephews and grandchildren.
This exhibition features works by various Wyeths and also Cumberland Valley artists who admired the rural understatements of Andrew Wyeth — his subdued palette, his mysterious spaces, his focus on particular things.
Included among the regional artists will be Alfred Brule, James Dean, Cindy Roberts Downs, Mac Fisher, Pamela Gaver, Norman Grahl, David Hellane, R. Benjamin Jones, Al Lavine, Mark Twain Noe, Tom Renner, Harry Richardson, Clyde Roberts, Kent Roberts, Lester Stone, Lee Weaver, Robert Wantz and Lovell A. Witt.
Works from the Pyle, Wyeth and McCoy families, including Howard Pyle (1853-1911), Ellen Thompson Pyle (1876-1936), Peter Hurd (1904-1984), Ann Wyeth McCoy (1905-2005), Ellen Pyle Lawrence (1907-1997), John McCoy (1910-1989), Ann Brelsford McCoy (b. 1940), A. N. (Andy) Wyeth (b. 1948) and Nancy C. Marshall (1944-2011) will also be presented in this exhibition.
The exhibition will be on view in the Groh Gallery from Saturday, Sept, 10, through Jan. 15, 2012.
Elizabeth Johns lives in Hagerstown and is professor emerita of art history from the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.
If you go ...
WHAT: “The Wyeth Family of Artists”
WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 10, through Jan. 15, 2012
WHERE: Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, City Park, Hagerstown
COST: Free; donations accepted
CONTACT: Call Donna Rastelli at 301-739-5727 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org
MORE: In conjunction with the exhibition, three educational events will be presented:
• “The Wyeth Family of Artists,” exhibition preview reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9. Advance reservations and tickets required.
• “Andrew Wyeth: His Art, His Family, and His World,” an illustrated conversation with Wanda Corn, author of “The Art of Andrew Wyeth” and American art historian Elizabeth Johns, 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25
• “Reminiscences from members of the Wyeth Family by Walter Pyle Smith and A.N. (Andy) Wyeth,” 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16. Contact the museum for tickets.