Fenimore organizes Wyeth studies | AllOTSEGO.com

Fenimore Art Museum ‘Draws From Life’ With Wyeth Exhibition

Pioneer Park in Cooperstown is home to this mural by artist Josh Sarantitis that invites viewers to the Fenimore Art Museum’s Wyeth exhibit during the summer.

A striking mural can be seen in Cooperstown’s Pioneer Park at the intersection of Main and Pioneer Street – the triptych tilts its hat to the Fenimore Art Museum’s summer exhibition Drawn from Life: Three Generations of Wyeth Figure Studies† Mural artist Josh Sarantitis turned to young local artists to help with the underpainting, a fitting nod to a moving installation that, as Fenimore puts it, provides a snapshot of NC, Andrew and Jamie Wyeth “as young artists” mastering their figure studies.

“This exhibition is a window into the evolution of who these artists were as young men,” said curator Victoria Wyeth, granddaughter of Andrew Wyeth. “You can’t have ‘The Helga Pictures’ or ‘Treasure Island’ without these early sketches.”

The ‘Helga’ in question, of course, is a model for what is arguably Andrew Wyeth’s best-known work: more than 240 paintings and drawings on display at the National Gallery of Art. ‘Treasure Island’ refers to the masterpiece that 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 art and figure study.

“We showcased three generations of Wyeth figure studies at Fenimore this summer,” Ms Wyeth said in an interview with The Freeman’s Journal / Hometown Oneonta† “It’s not your typical Andrew Wyeth exhibition, but these are the fundamental anatomical sketches and work-ups that led to the great work we all recognize.”

“My grandfather may not be a big fan of what I’m trying to present here,” she said of the extensive exhibit. “He didn’t like showing the imperfections in his scraps along the way. I think he’s in favor of how art students can see how the process works. This show is as much about their amazing process as it is about the finished work.”

“If you look at Andy’s work from the 1930s, let’s say you see a lot of hesitation,” said Ms. Wyeth. “You”’ see one, two, three, maybe four stops-and-starts in a pencil line. By the time you approach the 1970s, it’s just these long, flowing pencil lines that have been drawn with such confidence.”

She said Fenimore’s Director of Exhibitions and her co-curator, Chris Rossi, encouraged her to add the work of NC and Jamie Wyeth to Andrew Wyeth’s pieces on display.

“He suggested looking at the family’s art through my eyes,” she said. “We were talking about the concept and he said, ‘Ask your uncle what he thinks!’ Uncle Jamie agreed and it was great to interview him and Dad discussing the work.”

She loves that her family is presented so creatively in the historic setting of the Fenimore Art Museum.

“For an exhibition like this to work, the aesthetic has to be just right,” said Ms. Wyeth. “The building must have a certain spaciousness. An inappropriate environment detracts from the beauty of the work. I want people to look at the paintings, not the space.”

“The Fenimore,” she continued, “is exquisite. Here it is in this little mecca of culture and influence – the Fenimore, the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Glimmerglass Festival, so many galleries, so much art. And the building… so much history, beautiful cornice, beautiful approach. I have loved Fenimore Art Museum since I first came here 10 years ago.”

At the June 11 dedication ceremony for Mr. Sarantitis’ Pioneer Park mural, Ms. Wyeth told the audience: “I am a huge fan of art in education. This exhibition shows what worked and what didn’t.”

Mr Sarantitis agreed, saying his mural “bridges the gap from the public outside to the installation inside.”

“Subject, media and voice,” he said of the mural’s left-to-right design. With 10 area students, ages 9-12, helping with the underpainting of the work, he was able to show them concepts in color, design and social interaction.

“Dialogue is what is so often missing,” he said. “Yet it is so important. While working on this mural, we found the international art language here on Main Street. People who come to us from different religious and political backgrounds don’t talk about religion and politics, but about beauty, art, color and lines. That’s what murals can do.”

“I had two rules for the students,” he said. “The first line: ‘There’s nothing wrong with what you’re making.’ The second: “Don’t paint over other people’s work!”

Danielle Henrici, director of education for the Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers’ Museum, said: “I am so happy that this mural will greet tourists and residents alike all summer long, and I hope it will be a constant reminder of how creative and art-oriented our community is and always has been. The community is the heart of the Fenimore Art Museum.”

“This year, our current Wyeth exhibition of drawings and figure studies served as inspiration,” she said. “The figure – and actually the person who served as the subject himself – was so important to the Wyeth family of artists. “Place” also played a central role in the Wyeths’ work. “Place” means a lot to those of us who live here – we chose Cooperstown for a reason.”

Fenimore Art Museum offers gallery tours, dinner discussions and other tours with Victoria Wyeth – more information at fenimoreartmuseum.org.

“People get carte blanche with me at those dinners,” she laughed. “We talk about all kinds of things, and it’s always so nice to talk about my family’s work.”

Also on display in Fenimore through September 5, Exposing Venice: American Artists and the City of Water† The exhibition features paintings, etchings and three-dimensional objects exploring the two Venetian worlds depicted by American artists during the late 19th, early 20th and 21st centuries. The “picturesque” shows the attraction to Venice felt by American tourists, while the “realistic” portrays the rougher realism of a Venetian’s everyday life.

Between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Venice was an important artistic center for American and European artists. It was home to more than 450 printers, publishers and booksellers, making it a prime place for artists to work. There was plenty of collaboration as artists found like-minded people to share techniques and observations of the city.

Venice intrigued the American artists who arrived in droves. They were fascinated by the city’s unique atmosphere, unique waterways, volatile coastal climate and mix of Eastern and Western architectural styles. They bobbed along the canals and wandered the cobbled streets as they strived to reproduce the delicate light and distinctive colors of the city 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 views (view paintings) of urban landscapes, creating a market for vistas of cities and their inhabitants. Others were enthralled by the city’s history as a waning maritime power. They focused on the signs of decay in Venice’s architecture, its dark interiors and forgotten canals, observing from a distance the everyday life of working-class Venetians.

A catalog and a number of public programs will accompany the exhibition. Visit FenimoreArt.org for more information.

HOURS and ADMISSION: Fenimore Art Museum is open daily from 10am to 5pm. Admission: $15.00 (adults 20-64) and $12.50 (seniors 65+). Free entry for visitors aged 19 and under† For more information, visit FenimoreArt.org.

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