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Andrew Wyeth: Memory and Magic

March 29–July 16, 2006

Andrew Wyeth, one of America's most recognized and beloved artists, is the subject of a compelling retrospective that takes a fresh look at seven decades of accomplishment. Though linked to the realist traditions of Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, and Edward Hopper, Wyeth often transcends literal transcription to move into the realm of memory and imagination, inviting viewers into a strange and wondrous world. In Wyeth's work, objects transform metaphorically into portraits of friends, family, and even the artist himself. The exhibition explores how Wyeth invests these objects with meaning, and how he will sometimes begin with figure subjects and then gradually paint people out of the picture, leaving the objects to tell the stories themselves.

Exhibition Minutes

Rediscover the artist you thought you knew… var f_divname="mp3player"; var f_width=133; var f_height=110; var f_file="Wyeth Overview,Wyeth Surrealism,Wyeth Memory,Wyeth Magic,Wyeth Portraits"; var f_filetype="exhibitionMinutes"; var f_title="Overview,Surrealism,Memory,Magic,Portraits"; Listen to or download curator Kathy Foster's 5-part Podcast. Available in

The exhibition includes approximately one hundred tempera paintings, watercolors, and drawings, many from the personal collection of Andrew and Betsy Wyeth. It focuses on recurrent themes in the artist's work, such as domestic interiors, vessels and architecture, intimate and panoramic landscapes, friends and family, and still-life subjects, many of which reflect personal as well as universally shared emotions and concepts. The works are organized both chronologically and thematically to demonstrate how these subjects were born in Wyeth's early career, became distinct in his middle period, and have been revisited in new and startling ways in recent years.

Wyeth's method, based on observation and memory, and his style, which pushes toward simplicity and abstraction, has developed over the decades into increasingly symbolic and surreal imagery. Always popular for his fine-detailed temperas and freely brushed watercolors, Wyeth continues to combine technical mastery and emotional power in his most recent work, shown publicly for the first time in this exhibition.

Wyeth & His Works

<em>Andrew Wyeth</em>
Photo by Victoria Wyeth, 1996
© 1996 Victoria Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth Photo by Victoria Wyeth, 1996 © 1996 Victoria Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth was born on July 12, 1917 into an artist family in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. His father, N.C. Wyeth, who had gained fame as the illustrator of Scribner's Classics, was also a painter and muralist. N.C. had studied with Howard Pyle, a famous illustrator and progenitor of the "Brandywine School," a term that has since been applied to Pyle's students and their followers, including two of Andrew's siblings and eventually his son. Originally this school of painting focused on the Brandywine River valley, its rich farmland, wooded glens, and pre-colonial architecture built by Quaker, Scots-Irish, and Swedish settlers.

Andrew grew up under the tutelage of his unconventional and imposing father, who imbued him with a passion for nature, books, and music, and a disdain for cities and analytical institutions. On long walks together in the countryside, they steeped themselves in both the human and natural history of their locale. Andrew was encouraged to paint and draw, and to cultivate his imagination and emotions. When he began to study in his father's studio as a young teenager, he was rigorously trained in an academic method, using plaster casts, still lifes, and live models. N.C. stressed the primacy of identifying with the model, merging with the subject, and committing the details to memory.

" Delve more deeply into the minutia of nature and the quiet corners of existence." A precocious artist, Andrew had his drawings published and shown when he was still a boy. In 1935, at age eighteen, he participated in "The Wyeth Family" exhibition at the Art Alliance in Philadelphia, where he received praise for his oils and watercolors and an offer to return for a one-man show the next year. Wider critical recognition came two years later with his sold out one-man show of freely brushed Maine watercolors at the Macbeth Gallery in New York. Frequent comparisons to Winslow Homer, although complimentary, inspired Wyeth to choose another artistic path. From that point on he would delve more deeply into the minutia of nature and the quiet corners of existence, simultaneously learning the painstaking technique of egg tempera. Perennial subjects would include the landscape of his beloved homes—Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania in the winter, and Cushing, Maine in the summer. In portraiture, he often chose individuals he had known over the years in these places, family members, neighbors, drifters, and misfits.


The exhibition is organized by the High Museum of Artand the Philadelphia Museum of Art.


  • High Museum of Art, Atlanta • November 12, 2005–February 26, 2006
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art • March 29–July 16, 2006

Main Building


The exhibition is generously supported by the Lincoln and Mercury Brands of Ford Motor Company; GlaxoSmithKline; and PECO, An Exelon Company. Additional support is provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, the City of Philadelphia, and The Annenberg Foundation Fund for Exhibitions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Promotional support is provided by NBC 10 WCAU; The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, and; and Amtrak.


The curatorial team for Andrew Wyeth: Memory & Magic includes guest curator Anne Classon Knutson for the High Museum of Art, and, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Kathleen A. Foster, the Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Curator of American Art, and Michael Taylor, the Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art.

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