Fenimore Art Museum ‘draws from life’ with Wyeth exhibit
At the intersection of Main and Pioneer streets is a stunning mural on display in Pioneer Park in Cooperstown – the triptych hats off to the Fenimore Museum of Art’s summer exhibition Drawn From Life: Three Generations of Wyeth Figure Studies. Muralist Josh Sarantitis turned to young local artists to help with the underpainting, a fitting nod to an exciting installation that provides, as Fenimore says, a snapshot of NC, Andrew and Jamie Wyeth “as young artists” mastering figure studies.
“This exhibition is a window into the evolution of who these artists are as young men,” said curator Victoria Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth’s granddaughter. “You wouldn’t have ‘The Helga Pictures’ or ‘Treasure Island’ without these early sketches.”
The ‘Helga’ in question is, of course, the model for perhaps Andrew Wyeth’s best-known work – more than 240 paintings and drawings displayed in the National Gallery of Art. ‘Treasure Island’ refers to the masterpiece NC Wyeth – Andrew’s father – created for the cover of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel. Jamie Wyeth – Andrew’s son – continued the family’s traditions of fine arts and figure work.
“We have three generations of Wyeth figure work on display at Fenimore this summer,” said Ms. Wyeth. Freeman’s Diary / Hometown Oneonta. “Not your typical Andrew Wyeth exhibit, but these are key anatomical sketches and studies that led to the great work we all know.”
“My grandfather may not be a big fan of what I’m trying to present here,” he said of the widescreen. “He didn’t like to point out the flaws in his sketches along the way. I think it would be nice for art students to see how the process works. This show is as much about the finished work as it is about their marvelous process.”
“When you look at Andy’s work in the 1930s, let’s say, you see a lot of hesitation,” said Ms. Wyeth. “You see one, two, three, maybe four stop and go with a pencil. When you get to the ’70s, there’s just these long, flowing pencil lines drawn with great confidence.”
He said Fenimore’s Director of Exhibitions and associate curator Chris Rossi encouraged him to add work by NC and Jamie Wyeth to the Andrew Wyeth pieces on display.
“He suggested looking at the family’s art through my eyes,” she said. “We were talking about the concept and we were like, ‘Ask your uncle what he thinks!’ said. Uncle Jamie agreed and it was great to have the interview where he and my dad discussed the job.”
She is thrilled to have her family presented so creatively in the historic setting of the Fenimore Art Museum.
“For an exhibition like this to work, the aesthetics have to be right,” said Ms. Wyeth. “The building needs to have a certain spatial quality. Inappropriate environment detracts from the beauty of the work. I want people to look at the pictures, not the place.”
“Fenimore,” he continued, “delicious. Here is this little mecca of culture and influence – Fenimore, Baseball Hall of Fame, Glimmerglass Festival, so many galleries, so much art. And the building… so much history, beautiful crown molding, beautiful I have loved the Fenimore Art Museum since I first came here 10 years ago.”
At the June 11 ceremony dedicated to the Pioneer Park mural by Mr. Sarantitis, Ms. Wyeth told the audience: “I’m a big fan of the arts in education. This exhibition shows what works and what doesn’t.”
Mr Sarantitis agreed, saying the mural “fills the gap between the public outside and the installation inside”.
“Subject, media and sound,” he said of the left-to-right design of the mural. With 10 field students aged 9-12, he was able to help them with the underpainting of the study, showing them the concepts of color, design and social interaction.
“Dialogue is what is so often lacking,” he said. “Still very important. While working on this mural, we found the international language of art at play here on Main Street. People who come to us from different religious and political backgrounds who talk about beauty, art, color and lines, not religion and politics. this is the thing.”
“I had two rules for students,” he said. “The first rule is: ‘There’s nothing wrong with what you create.’ Second, “Don’t paint over someone else’s work!”
Danielle Henrici, Director of Education for the Fenimore Museum of Art and Farmers Museum, said: “I am delighted that this mural will greet tourists and residents alike all summer long and hope it will serve as a reminder of how enduring creativity and art are. Our community has been and always has been. The community is right in the heart of the Fenimore Art Museum.”
“This year, our current Wyeth exhibit, which includes drawings and figure studies, has been a source of inspiration,” he said. The figure—and indeed the person who served as the subject—was very important to the Wyeth family of artists. “Place” also played a central role in the work of the Wyeths. “Place” means a lot to us who live here – we chose Cooperstown for a reason.”
The Fenimore Museum of Art offers after-hours gallery tours, dinner discussions, and other tours with Victoria Wyeth – find out more at fenimoreartmuseum.org.
“People go light color with me at those dinners,” he laughed. “We talk about all kinds of things and it’s always fun to talk about my family’s business.”
It will also be on display at Fenimore until September 5, Unmasking Venice: American Artists and the City of Water. The exhibition includes paintings, engravings, and three-dimensional objects that explore two Venetian worlds depicted by American artists in the late 19th, early 20th, and early 21st centuries. “Like a window” shows the attraction American tourists have for Venice, while “realistic” depicts the bolder realism of a Venetian’s everyday life.
Between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Venice was an important art center for American and European artists. It’s home to more than 450 print shops, publishers, and bookstores, making it the premier place for artists to work. Collaboration increased as we found like-minded artists to share techniques and observations about the city.
Venice attracted a large number of incoming American artists. They were fascinated by the city’s unique atmosphere, unique waterways, variable coastal climate, and blend of Eastern and Western architectural styles. They glided along its canals and wandered its cobblestone streets, trying to reflect the city’s delicate light and distinctive colors on their canvases and sketchbooks. Some followed in the footsteps of earlier artists, such as Giovanni Antonio Canal, known as Canaletto (1697-1768), who was one of the first to depict it. viewing It creates a market for panoramic views of cityscapes (view images), cities and their inhabitants. Others were fascinated by the city’s history as a dwindling naval power. They focused on the signs of decay in Venetian architecture, its darkened interiors and forgotten back canals, and observed the daily life of working-class Venetians from afar.
A catalog will accompany the exhibition as well as various public programs. Visit FenimoreArt.org for more information.
HOURS and APPLICATION: Fenimore Museum of Art is open daily from 10:00 to 17:00 Admission: $15.00 (Adults aged 20-64) and $12.50 (adults aged 65+). Free admission for visitors 19 and under. Visit FenimoreArt.org for more information.