Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Art Review - N.C. Wyeth, Brandywine River Museum of Art, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania

For #museumtourtuesday, I’m sharing my two favorite paintings from our visit to the Brandywine River Museum of Art last June. The museum was holding a special N.C. Wyeth exhibition, and it was interesting to able to view the evolution of his work.

The two pieces here are from early in his career, shortly after leaving the school of his mentor, Howard Pyle. While Wyeth's paintings from over a decade later, such as illustrations depicting Arthurian legends, Robinson Crusoe and Robin Hood are far more well known, my personal opinion is that these works are far more sublime.


Painting photos by Saunders Fine Arts.


"Montana" The Last Stand • McClure's Magazine, cover illustration • N.C. Wyeth • 1906
• Oil on Canvas • 50 1/8" x 34”
This piece is a tour de force of design, skillfully employing a combination of value and color temperature contrasts to enhance the drama and impact of the figure. Notice how the figure is slightly darker in value than the remainder of the shadowed area. Our eyes travel down the figure to the strong vector of the rifle, revealing the downward trailing smoke from the barrel. This leads us to the spent shell casings on the ground, revealing that the battle may already be over.


"Montana" The Last Stand Detail • McClure's Magazine, cover illustration • N.C. Wyeth • 1906
• Oil on Canvas • 50 1/8" x 34”
The figure is far more realistically rendered and proportioned than many works created during the height of Wyeth's career, lacking the exaggeration of forms and gesture. Notice the detail of the just expelled shell casing flying through the air.
"In the Crystal Depths" Detail • N.C. Wyeth • 1906 • Oil on Canvas • 38" x 26"
While this piece employs the same design division of warm lights versus cool shadows, here, Wyeth does not draw our attention directly to the figure by outlining the form. Instead, the main figure and the canoe recede into the darks, to be discovered by the viewer. Even the flow of the river is more prominent than the figure. We are voyeurs of a much more somber and quiet moment, in contrast to the sudden violence of the previous painting.
"In the Crystal Depths" Detail • N.C. Wyeth • 1906 • Oil on Canvas • 38" x 26"
The figure and canoe are beautifully painted in very thin paint. This minimalist paint texture adds to the subtlety of the central figure. In contrast, notice the thicker paint in the light areas to the right.
"In the Crystal Depths" Detail • N.C. Wyeth • 1906 • Oil on Canvas • 38" x 26"
Here you can see just how thinly the paint has been applied, with only a few slightly juicier dabs of paint on the forehead, shoulder and red ties of the hair braids.

© Patrick and Kimberly Saunders, Patrick Saunders Fine Arts, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s authors/owners is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Patrick Saunders for painted works, or to Kimberly Saunders for photographs and/or videos, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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