Denver Art Museum Wows With Wyeths

Father and son works juxtaposed in exclusive exhibition.

Jamie Wyeth at the entrance to the new exhibition at the Denver Art Museum.
Jamie Wyeth at the entrance to the new exhibition at the Denver Art Museum.

I first “met” the Wyeths — N.C., Andrew and Jamie — at the Brandywine River Museum, dedicated to preserving the landscape, art and culture of a poetic part of Pennsylvania and Delaware. I got to know them better at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockport, Maine. Now, highlights of the Wyeths’ remarkable artworks have come practically to my doorstep.

Two of the three generations of this gifted family are represented in “Wyeth: Andrew & Jamie in the Studio,” which opens tomorrow at the Denver Art Museum. Jamie Wyeth was in town for the media preview. What a treat to hear his stories of the ways he and his father create(d) art. Timothy Standring, the DAM’s curator of painting and sculpture, spent 4 years assembling the show. Its 100-plus works in various media ( including pen and ink, graphite, charcoal, watercolor, dry brush, tempera, oil and mixed media, including ground-up pearls from a necklace of Jamie’s wife) are in Denver through February 7.

Andrew Wyeth’s “Christina’s Word,” enshrined at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art, is not in the exhibition. It is an iconic painting, IMO on the order of the “Mona Lisa” or”Whistler’s Mother,” this is a a must-see for the legions of visitors who visit the museums that house them. MOMA has loaned it out just once and only for a single day. The Wyeth exhibition does include a study for this famous work.

Jamie is delightful raconteur but also an intense and private painter. For a time in Maine, he painted in a plywood bait box where he wouldn’t be disturbed. He likes to do subjects in series — farm animals, dogs, ravens, Rudolf Nureyev, the Seven Deadly Sins, Andy Warhol, nudes, currently screen doors. Famous for his portraits, Jamie doesn’t take commissions but paints only those people he wishes to. He often asks the “sitter” (i.e., the subject) to sign the work because he feels that each one is a collaboration between painter and subject.

I asked whether there are any younger Wyeths painting? He replied, “God, I hope not!” and then admitted that some younger relatives are artists. Lauren Whitney of CBS4 also came to interview him. This exhibition is at the DAM through Feb 7, and then a portion goes to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid — and that’s it. Aren’t we lucky to have it in Denver?