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Brandywine - 1971_09_01 68-74

68 THE SATURDAY EVENING POST Fall 1971 T83 IITCYWERM YEZEUREPH OF toPMET AND aTRENGT Any American schoolboy who has read his history book knows that General George Washington's encounters with the Redcoats were not always victorious. Usually outmanned and occasionally outmaneuvered, his troops were seldom outfought. That triumph of spirit, if not battle, gave the colonists an early sustaining edge, and, in the last days at Yorktown, the decision of war itself. The Battle of Brandywine in 1777 was one of those occasions where spirit had to fill in for strength. But in 1971, on this same ground where Washington spurred his horse away from the enemy, a triumph of spirit as well as strength can be witnessed — not as momentous as the Revolutionary battle, perhaps, but still deserving of a place in the history of this blood-hallowed ground. It is a spirit not of war, but of work - the flesh-and-bone and pastoral creations of a company of painters and illustrators who have come to be known as the Brandywine School. Bridging generations and families, this school is best known for the accomplishments of Andrew Wyeth, perhaps the most popular artist in America. Works by him and two other Wyeths — Andrew's father, Newell C., and son, Jamie — as well as illustrations by Howard Pyle and others have been collected for an exhibition called simply "The Brandywine Heritage," and are on display until October 17 at a restored grist mill at Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. The mill is the core of the new Brandywine River Museum. Standing on the banks of this historic creek, the rugged red brick structure beckons the visitor of 1971 not so much as a relic of the past, but as a muted suggestion of it. Its slate roof still sags, its windows are now closed with ancient spruce, and its brick facade is studded with iron diamonds that once secured tie rods used to keep the walls from buckling. That the century-old mill is still standing is a tribute to the Tri-County Conservancy of Brandywine, a nonprofit foundation which saved the building from the bulldozer and industrial development in 1967. A $1.2 million reconstruction was begun, and on June 19 of this year, the museum and an acquired 74 acres of river- The opening show at the Brandywine River Museum features 170 works by artists linked with the historic Brandywine locale. lands surrounding the mill were opened to the public. The exhibitions and other activities of the museum will attempt to couple the compatible goals of art and conservation. The work to be shown each year will present the spirit and natural heritage of the Brandywine Valley, and from that spirit, the Conservancy hopes, a concern for the environment will follow. But it is the art that will endure long after the conservation battle is forgotten. A total of 170 works are on display at this fall's show, including 30 which have never been seen before. Oils, temperas, water- colors, pen-and-ink, and pencil drawings are among the selections. Through all of them it is possible to trace the develop- ment of this most famous American School — from the simple early narrative styles of Pyle and his prize pupil, N.C. Wyeth, to the later self-conscious art of Andrew and Jamie with their often solitary portraits and landscapes. The focus of this season's show is on Pyle, the founder of the school, whose wide-ranging imagination enabled him to give convincing form to many characters and episodes of fiction and history. He was able to bequeath this gift to the young N.C. Wyeth, so that even today the mere mention of the names of Robin Hood, Black- beard the Pirate, or the heroes and villains of Treasure Island brings to mind the work of the Brandywine teacher and student. (N.C.'s Blind Pew, on loan for the exhibition from Mrs. Andrew Wyeth's collection, ranks among the most famous illustrations in American art.) Pyle had known the Brandywine area since boyhood. He lived and taught in Wilmington, Delaware, and for a time commuted to Philadelphia where he taught at the Drexel Institute. His permanent association with Brandywine started with a summer course at Chadds Ford, and it was there that N.C. Wyeth settled after early years outside Boston and later adventures in the West. For all of the members of the Brandywine School, but especially for its founder, the business of "learning" art was unusually self-motivated and self-developed. In his teens Pyle had studied briefly with an obscure Antwerp-trained artist, and then sporadically attended classes at the New York Art Students' League. Crucial to his development was his anatomical work with a Philadelphia surgeon. But beyond this scant training he was forced to map his own course. He was always as demanding of himself as he was of his students, and sought to bring out of the deep wells of their imagination rich pictorial creations. "What art students need most," he once wrote to a friend, "is the cultivation of t heir imagination and its direction into practical and useful channels of creation." Today the unspoiled rural charm of the Brandywine Valley continues to give inspiration to nearly everything the two living Wyeths undertake. This quiet area offers them not a narrow refuge, but an atmosphere sympathetic to their artistry. The result is always a universality in regionality, captured as much in wooden farm houses frozen into endless landscapes, as in portraits of rawboned, work-hardened country folk. Andrew shares with his father and with Pyle a special sense of time, but chooses to paint the evidences rather than the events of the past. And in the work of his son Jamie, Pyle's belief that illustration is a "ground to produce painters" is ringing true again. The scope of Jamie's achievement already gives assurance that the Brandywine tradition lives on. The Brandywine River Museum in its 1971 show offers a never-before opportunity to absorb an important strain of our American artistic heritage. The selections on the following pages are a glimpse of the magnitude of that strain: the full vista can only be seen alongside a gentle river in Pennsylvania. Et


Brandywine - 1971_09_01 68-74
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