The Portland Museum of Art is thrilled to host N. C. Wyeth: New Perspectives, the first major compilation of N. C. Wyeth’s art in almost 50 years. Co-organized with the Brandywine River Museum of Art, the exhibition contains approximately 45 paintings and drawings selected from museums and private collections across the United States, presenting a detailed, chronological exploration of Wyeth’s work and revealing the astonishing breadth of both his subject matter and style.
Curated by Christine B. Podmaniczky (Curator, N. C. Wyeth Collections & Historic Properties, Brandywine River Museum of Art) and Jessica May (Deputy Director and Robert and Elizabeth Nanovic Chief Curator, Portland Museum of Art), N. C. Wyeth: New Perspectives will include the iconic paintings that were widely reproduced in books and magazines, and established his reputation as one of the period’s most popular illustrators. Yet much of Wyeth’s artistic production was self-motivated, non-commissioned work, and the exhibition will also feature a selection of landscapes, still lifes, and the thematic images that occupied the artist throughout his career. This assessment of Wyeth, who traditionally has been examined only within the sphere of American illustration, will reposition him in the broader context of early 20th-century American art history.
Other works on paper in the exhibition include large-scale charcoal composition drawings and a preparatory landscape study with detailed color annotation. Other important thematic paintings such as Island Funeral (1939), In a Dream I Meet General Washington (1930) and Spring—1918 (1932) explore personal relationships and the artist’s abiding sense of place, which inevitably guided his choice of subject. These works demonstrate Wyeth’s ability to expand his personal vision into complex, multi-layered, compelling canvases.
Generations of readers grew up with stories “Illustrated by N. C. Wyeth”—his name was as renowned as the authors whose stories he pictured. This exhibition will show, however, that exciting, enduring illustrations were only part of Wyeth’s legacy—as is his role as patriarch of three generations of renowned artists, including Andrew Wyeth and Jamie Wyeth. Regionally, he’s renowned as one of the great artists linked closely to Maine. Recently the art world and the art market have been taking a fresh look at N. C. Wyeth’s art and achievements, and this exhibition will be a landmark of that assessment.