Every Picture Tells a Story: N.C. Wyeth Exhibition Opens Today at the Farnsworth!

Published on April 26th, 2013 | Posted in Art News, Events and Exhibitions

When discussing the life and work of American artist N. C. Wyeth, two institutions immediately come to mind: The Brandywine River Museum and the Farnsworth Art Museum. Both museums have exceptional examples of the artist’s oeuvre and have joined together in a collaborative exhibition entitled Every Picture Tells a Story: Illustrations by N.C. Wyeth from the Collection of the Brandywine River Museum, that opens today at the Farnsworth Art Museum. Thirty paintings from the Brandywine spanning forty years of Wyeth’s career have been loaned to the Farnsworth for the show, and a selection of original books and magazines will allow audiences to see how the paintings were reproduced and distributed.  Every Picture Tells a Story will prove to audiences that there are indeed two sides to every story—or in this case, every painting: on the one hand, there is the scene depicted in the actual painting, and on the other, there is the personal, underlying context of what motivated or inspired the artist to create a piece.

This “back-story” to art forms the backbone of this exhibition: This collection of thirty N. C. Wyeth paintings allows audiences to see the dual  nature of an artwork by revealing the painting’s narrative, in addition to providing the rationale behind why Wyeth incorporated certain aspects into these pieces.   Wyeth created Eseldorf was a paradise for us boys [sic] as an illustration to coincide with the frontispiece of Mark Twain’s The Mysterious Stranger, Part I that was published in Harper’s Monthly Magazine. Twain spins a tale of three boys who encounter a satanic figure who teaches them some of life’s difficult lessons and Wyeth’s painting depicts the trio armed on the icy banks of a river with a castle looming in the distance.  The back-story, however, reveals how Wyeth grew up listening to his aunt telling stories of German legend and folklore, and that the bow held by a central figure was reminiscent of his uncle’s homemade weapons.

It is fascinating to see how Wyeth successfully incorporated aspects of original stories into his illustrations while simultaneously integrating personal influences and considerations related to their reproduction.  Visitors will be able to compare the paintings with the original reproductions, which are sourced from the permanent collection of the Farnsworth Museum of Art.  On view through December 29, 2013, Every Picture Tells a Story: Illustrations by N.C. Wyeth from the Collection of the Brandywine River Museum is a double-feature exhibition you won’t want to miss!


A very special thanks is given to Christine Podmaniczky, Associate Curator for the N.C. Wyeth collection at the Brandywine River Museum, and the helpful staff at the Farnswoth Art Museum for providing supporting text and images.

N. C. Wyeth, “Eseldorf was a paradise for us boys,” illustration for Mark Twain’s “The Mysterious Stranger,” oil on canvas, 40 x 33 1/8 inches. Collection of the Brandywine River Museum.

N. C. Wyeth, “The Twentieth Century and the First: The Dramatic Contrast of an English Tank in the Streets of Jerusalem,” oil on canvas, 38 5/16 in x 31 1/4 inches. Collection of the Brandywine River Museum.

Chelsea DeLay is the Coordinator at Questroyal Fine Art. Chelsea earned her MA in art business at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in New York, and her BA in art history and classical studies from Purdue University. Her interest in American paintings first began while working at an auction house on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and has multiplied exponentially since joining the Questroyal team.
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  • David Troup commented on April 26, 2013:

    What a lovely, insightful piece. Many thanks!

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