Upcoming movie, auction celebrate Wyeth legacy

  • Jamie Wyeth, Portrait of Andrew Wyeth, 1969, oil on canvas, 24 x 32 in.; gift of the artist, ©Jamie Wyeth

    Jamie Wyeth, Portrait of Andrew Wyeth, 1969, oil on canvas, 24 x 32 in.; gift of the artist, ©Jamie Wyeth

Ranking among America's most beloved 20th-century artists, Andrew Wyeth, who died in 2009, remains so popular today that his life and art warrant a motion picture, a fundraising auction, and even a couple of museums centered on his work.

He also gets the distinction of being faked.

In July of this year, the United States Attorney’s Office seized a skillful forgery of Andrew Wyeth’s “Snow Birds.” The fraudulent painting had been placed for sale at a major auction house in New York with an estimate of $300,000 and $500,000, but red flags soon went up over its authenticity. 

The Andrew Wyeth office at the Brandywine River Museum reviewed the work and notified the U.S. Attorney’s Office that it was indeed a fake of his 1970 original.

Celebrated paintings by Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009); his father, the illustrator N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945); and his son, artist Jamie Wyeth (b. 1946), can be viewed in a number of American museums and collections. Two particular museums retain large holdings of Wyeth works: the Brandywine River Museum and Farnsworth Art Museum, located near the homes and studios of the artists in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and Rockland, Maine, respectively.

Famous works such as Andrew's 1948 painting "Christina's World" (Museum of Modern Art, NY), N.C.'s Howard Pyle-influenced illustration art of patriots, pilgrims and pirates; and Jamie's singular visions of Maine, including the recent "Seven Deadly Sins" series, are among the enduring images in the public consciousness.

Perhaps the most memorable works of Andrew Wyeth's ouevre are the Helga pictures. These stark, realist, sometimes nude, renditions of the artist's neighbor caused a sensation when first exhibited at the National Gallery of Art in 1987.

An intruiging watercolor of a nude by Andrew Wyeth, titled "From the Back" (1984), is part of an upcoming fundraising auction in support of the Farnsworth Art Museum’s campaign for the Andrew Wyeth Memorial Endowment.

From November 8 through November 29, Adelson Galleries in New York City will host an online benefit auction of museum-quality artwork, which may include paintings and watercolors by Jamie Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, Leon Kroll, John Marin, and Andy Warhol, among others.

The works to be sold have been generously donated by artists, collectors, and philanthropists with an interest in sustaining the mission of the Farnsworth. The campaign aims to raise $12 million, the income from which will fund the maintenance and operation of four of the Farnsworth Museum’s properties devoted to the Wyeth legacy: the Olson House in Cushing, Maine, and the Wyeth Center, Wyeth Study Center, and Wyeth Research Center in Rockland.

The live auction preview, to be held in the gallery, will begin November 8 and culminate in a special evening celebrating the life and artistic legacy of Andrew Wyeth on Monday, November 29th. (For more information: call 212.439.6800 or visit www.adelsongalleries.com)

In early 2011, filming is set to begin on the long-anticipated Wyeth (working title), a dramatic movie that explores the family relationships and art of the three generations.

With a budget of $7.5 million, Snow Hill Productions, headed by Mary Kemper Wolf, director of ‘120 Wooster Street’ on PBS and the daughter of collectors/museum founders Bebe and Crosby Kemper, is collaborating with    Capstone Entertainment Group. The writer is Frank Barhydt.

The film makers are seeking Wyeth works in public and private collections to enhance the film. The feature, which is approved by the Wyeth family, with Jamie on board as a Consulting Producer, will likely be filmed on location in Maine.

"We're contacting major collectors of Wyeth works to see if they want to be a part of this," Donna McNeil, director of the Maine Arts Commission, said in the Portland Press Herald.

A release of 'Wyeth' at film festivals may be scheduled for 2012.


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