Kristin Lynch ’17
On Monday, November 7, 2016, Professor Sandra Butryn-Todd’s ART 102 Basic Design class toured the Brandywine River Museum of Art. While there, seven Immaculata University students were able to admire and study three generations of Wyeth art.
Upon arrival, a friendly and informative volunteer tour guide greeted students. The first attraction on the day’s agenda was the building’s observation deck. The museum’s observation deck presents visitors with a sweeping, panoramic view of the Brandywine River; which was especially spectacular because the class visited on a bright and sunny fall afternoon. Students strolled through the observation deck and took a few minutes to appreciate the rich and colorful fall foliage before moving on to the next phase of the tour.
The first gallery the class explored was the Heritage Collection. This collection gave visitors some context before touring the first Wyeth gallery. Most of the pieces in the Heritage Collection were nature scenes inspired by the Brandywine Valley. In this gallery, the class was introduced to several key ideas that carried through many of the museum’s pieces: the importance of intimately knowing one’s subject matter, the use of limited color values, the significance of close cropped composition, and the use of background to create emphasis. These ideas paralleled many of the principles and elements of design that the class has studied since the start of the fall semester in August.
After meandering through the Heritage Collection, the class journeyed on to the next gallery to view the first Wyeth collection of the tour: N.C. Wyeth. N.C. Wyeth is best known for his illustrations of the adventure novel, “Treasure Island.” According to the museum’s tour guide, Wyeth commissioned seventeen paintings for $2,500; the Brandywine River Museum of Art currently displays fourteen of Wyeth’s original “Treasure Island” paintings. Wyeth believed it was the job of the illustrator to extend a story with imagery.
The next gallery on the agenda displayed the artistic works of Andrew Wyeth, N.C. Wyeth’s son. While in this display room, the class learned that Andrew Wyeth frequently incorporated railroad tracks into his paintings to pay homage to his late father who was killed in a train accident in 1945. Andrew frequently painted with tempera, which the class learned is a painting technique that uses egg yolk and pigmented powder to create a medium that dries very slowly, and gives the artist more time to work.
The third and final collection explored during the tour exhibited the works of Jamie Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth’s son and N.C. Wyeth’s grandson. Jamie’s work, while equally exemplary to his father’s and grandfather’s work, takes a different approach to art. Jamie was the most experimental artist in the family, and regularly explored new materials. The class especially enjoyed his depiction of Rudolf Nureyev, which was painted on cardboard.
After the tour, students thanked their knowledgeable tour guide, and were free to wander through the rest of the museum for a few minutes before returning to campus. The next time the class met, everyone discussed what they learned from the experience, what they enjoyed the most, and Butryn-Todd commented, “I think it’s important for us to consider the Chester County style of art and interests; it’s right in our own backyard.” Overall, the trip was a successful exploration of local artists’ works, and reinforced many of the concepts discussed in the course.