Road Trip: The Brandywine River Museum

by artfuldiner on August 26, 2013

in Artful Diner Mini Review, Breaking News, Opinion, Pennsylvania, Special Events

Brandywine River Museum

1 Hoffman’s Mill Road

Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania

610) 388-2700

If you’re looking for an interesting getaway this summer (or any time of the year, for that matter), you might consider a visit to the Brandywine River Museum in nearby Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Opened in 1971 by the Brandywine Conservancy, an organization dedicated to preserving art and the environment in the Brandywine Valley, the museum is housed in the renovated Hoffman’s Mill, a former gristmill constructed in 1864.

The Brandywine enjoys an international reputation for its unparalleled collection and its dedication to American art; specifically, the art of the Brandywine region, American illustration, still life, and landscape painting.  The museum also showcases the work of the Wyeth family: Andrew Wyeth, a major American realist painter; his father, N.C. Wyeth, an illustrator of many children’s classics; and his son, Jamie Wyeth, a contemporary American realist painter.

But of equal importance, I believe, is that in an age that appears to be rushing headlong toward museum uniformity – consider the architecturally cool, touristy new Barnes in Philadelphia as Exhibit A – the Brandywine River Museum remains charmingly intimate, individualistic, and eccentric. In that sense, it is certainly reminiscent of the old Barnes. Tucked away just off Route 1, you still have to go hunting for this hidden gem; and you discover it, reclining peacefully on the banks of the Brandywine Creek, surrounded by wildflower and native plant gardens, resplendent in its own unique serene sequestration. And it was precisely this tranquil setting that inspired the Brandywine School of Art and the artists’ colony founded by artist Howard Pyle at the end of the 19th century.

All of the museum’s six galleries, of course, are worth visiting. But a special exhibition, Jamie Wyeth, Rockwell Kent and Monhegan, is especially noteworthy.

With its majestic cliffs, wild, rocky coastline, and flowering meadows, Monhegan, a small island situated ten miles off the coast of Maine, has attracted artists to its picturesque shores since the 1800s. Though Rockwell Kent (1882 – 1971) and Jamie Wyeth (b. 1946) never met, both called the island home. Kent was introduced to Monhegan in 1905 and returned several times during his lifetime. Jamie Wyeth came to the island for the first time in the 1950s with his father, Andrew. In point of fact, at the age of twenty-one, following his first successful one-man show in New York, he was able to purchase Kent House, the home Rockwell Kent built on the island for his mother. Today, the artist continues to spend a significant amount of time there.

Despite the fact that both artists had similar experiences on the island, the exhibition clearly demonstrates the stylistic and, ultimately, the philosophical differences between the two. And the influence visible in the exhibition, as Amanda Burdan, Assistant Curator notes, “… Is not of the elder artist on the younger, but that of Monhegan itself, the island where Kent and Wyeth never met.”

Jamie Wyeth, Rockwell Kent and Monhegan is scheduled to run through Sunday, November 17, and is highly recommended…

Bon Appétit!


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