Farnsworth Announces Historic Bequest of 27 Major Wyeth Works from Betsy Wyeth

  • ROCKLAND, Maine
  • /
  • April 15, 2021

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James Wyeth, Islander, 1975, Oil on canvas, 34 x 44 3/8 inches, Collection of the Farnsworth Art Museum
Exhibition schedule features never-seen Wyeth works, Indiana’s Hartley Elegies,
and a celebration of 13 Women of Vision

The Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine, is pleased to announce the receipt of major gifts of art from the bequest of Betsy James Wyeth. All twenty-seven new acquisitions by the three generations of Wyeth painters, N.C., Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth, will be on view, beginning Saturday, May 15, as part of a landmark new exhibition entitled Betsy’s Gift: The Works of N.C., Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth. The exhibition will be accompanied by a complementary exhibition of works by Andrew Wyeth, Betsy Wyeth: Partner and Muse, which features five Wyeth works that have never been exhibited in public. Betsy James Wyeth passed away last spring, at the age of ninety-eight.

“The Farnsworth is so fortunate to have the ongoing support of the Wyeth family and we are deeply grateful for this treasured gift to the museum’s collection,” said Farnsworth Director Christopher J. Brownawell. “Along with this stunning gift from Betsy, several other gifts were recently received, making this a transformational moment in our history. These exceptional works strengthen our museum’s already outstanding collection, elevating the Farnsworth to one of the great regional museums in the country.”

“The Farnsworth’s relationship with Andrew and Betsy goes back to 1944, four years before the museum opened its doors to the public,” commented Farnsworth Board President Gerry Isom. “The museum purchased six works at that time, from a still relatively unknown Andrew Wyeth, as its collection was just taking shape. Betsy’s ongoing support of the Farnsworth was unwavering throughout her life, and we owe her an immense debt of gratitude.”

The bequest of twenty-seven works includes two well-known Andrew Wyeth watercolors featuring the Olson House—Room after Room and Geraniums; the N.C. Wyeth oil painting Fisherman’s Family; as well as Jamie Wyeth’s famed Monhegan oil painting Islander. Along with several other recent gifts of art, these pieces represent an extraordinary infusion of American art that expands and strengthens the Farnsworth’s mission and collection, providing Mainers and visitors from around the world with an exceptional art experience.

The new works will be included in an exhibition entitled Betsy’s Gift: The Works of N.C., Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth, on view in the Farnsworth’s Hadlock Gallery through March 27, 2022. The accompanying exhibition Betsy Wyeth: Partner and Muse will feature Andrew Wyeth’s portraits of his wife Betsy, who appeared in his paintings from the summer they met in 1939 until the summer before the artist’s death in 2009. At the center of the exhibition is Maga's Daughter, an iconic tempera exhibited in Maine for the first time, along with several watercolors and drawings of Betsy that have never been displayed publicly before.

In addition to these two major exhibitions, the Farnsworth will feature three additional exhibitions in 2021:

Women of Vision, opening on April 17, celebrates thirteen remarkable women who have made lasting contributions to Maine’s culture. The thirteen women—photographer Berenice Abbott, businesswoman Linda Bean, painter Katherine Bradford, philanthropist Edith Dixon, museum founder Lucy Farnsworth, photographer Cig Harvey, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, sculptor Louise Nevelson, philanthropist Elizabeth Noyce, basket maker and Passamaquoddy civic leader Molly Neptune Parker, women’s advocate and philanthropist Maurine Rothschild, arts and education champion Phyllis Wyeth, and artist Marguerite Zorach—will receive the 2021 Maine in America Award at a ceremony at the museum in July.

Robert Indiana: The Hartley Elegies, opening on May 25, features ten silkscreen prints by Robert Indiana (1928–2018), one of America’s best known painters and sculptors of the Pop Art generation. These prints, along with eighteen related paintings, are known as The Hartley Elegies. Done between 1989 and 1994 they were inspired by the work of the prominent American modernist Marsden Hartley (1877–1946), with whom Indiana felt a strong connection. The ten large-scale silkscreen prints of Indiana’s Hartley Elegies comprise a visual poem on the two artists’ shared interests in radical formal vocabularies, and their innovative combinations of words and numbers into their boldly colored geometric compositions. They were also a coded commentary on their lives as gay men, as well as their experiences of living and working in Maine after leaving the artistic center of New York that earlier had nourished their careers.

George Tice/Andrew Wyeth: Parallel Visions opens at the museum’s Wyeth Center on June 12. Over a period of many decades, nationally renowned photographer George Tice and artist Andrew Wyeth were drawn to Maine, inspired by the state’s past, and a present that speaks to a sense of timelessness and the enduring qualities of honor and dignity in an honest day’s work. The first exhibition to show Tice's Maine work in the place that inspired it and the first to pair the two artists together, it explores the unique vision of each artist through their depictions of those evocative parallel worlds that capture both the myth of Maine and the reality its residents call home.

“We could not be more delighted to offer such high-caliber exhibitions this spring, as we all celebrate a slow return to normalcy,” added Brownawell. “As the only art museum in Maine that remained open throughout the pandemic—except for two months last March—we feel it is our responsibility to our community to remain a beacon and a place for comfort and renewal.”

The forthcoming exhibitions are made possible in part by grants from the Henry Luce Foundation, and the Maine Arts Commission, an independent state agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. Established in 1936 by the late Henry R. Luce, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time, Inc., the Luce Foundation supports projects in American art, higher education, East Asia, theology, women in science, mathematics and engineering and public policy, and the environment. The Maine Arts Commission encourages and stimulates public interest and participation in the cultural heritage and cultural programs of Maine, and encourages and assists freedom of artistic expression for the well-being of the arts, to meet the needs and aspirations of persons in all parts of the state. 

Named by the Boston Globe as one of the finest small museums in the country, the Farnsworth Art Museum offers a nationally recognized collection of works from many of America’s greatest artists. It is open year-round as the only museum dedicated solely to American and Maine-inspired art. Through its remarkable collection of more than 15,000 works, inventive exhibitions, wide-ranging intellectual resources, and energetic educational programming, visitors from around the world gain a deep appreciation of the ongoing story of Maine’s role in American art.

David Troup
Farnsworth Art Museum

Farnsworth Art Museum
16 Museum Street
Rockland, Maine
About Farnsworth Art Museum

Celebrating Maine’s Role in American Art, the Farnsworth Art Museum offers a nationally recognized collection of works from many of America’s greatest artists. With 20,000 square feet of gallery space and over 10,000 works in the collection, there is always something new on view at the Farnsworth. The museum houses the nation's second-largest collection of works by premier 20th-century sculptor Louise Nevelson. Its Wyeth Center exclusively features works of Andrew, N.C. and Jamie Wyeth. The Farnsworth's library is also housed in its Rockland, ME, campus. Two historic buildings, the Farnsworth Homestead and the Olson House, complete the museum complex.

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