Vol. 17, No. 38Aug. 6, 1998

Professor pens book for Wyeth, Pyle show

The cover of Joyce Hill Stoner's book and program guide to the Maine exhibition, coming to the Delaware Art Museum in December

Wondrous Strange: Pyle, Wyeth, Wyeth & Wyeth is attracting numerous art lovers to the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine, this summer and fall, and the exhibition will travel to the Delaware Art Museum from Dec. 10-Feb. 21.

Joyce Hill Stoner, art conservation, has written A Closer Look, an accompanying book about the four artists whose works are featured at the exhibition: Howard Pyle, Newell Convers Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth and Jamie Wyeth. Her book is an in-depth exploration of the methods, techniques and goals of the artists in creating their multi-faceted legacy of art.

As she writes in the introduction, "Art conservators regularly have the opportunity to be on intimate terms with works of art. Like other viewers, we see paintings and drawings on museum walls, but in the course of our work we also see them up close and highly magnified. This provides a unique opportunity to study and appreciate the special effects...."

She points out, however, that "discussing the technique of these four artists is complicated by the fact that each-in writings or interviews-denies the importance of technique," but that "nonetheless each employed particular means to apply paint to canvas or panel...."

Of Howard Pyle, the "master of multimedia," who produced 3,300 published pictures and decorations, she wrote, "His media included pen and ink, oil paintings..., watercolors, stained glass, wood carving and even children's crayons, and he varied styles within each medium according to the subjects."

Characterizing N.C. Wyeth as "painting with both hands" on a "barn-door scale," Stoner quotes him as saying "Passion lies in the personality of the brush stroke, not in the craft of the brush stroke."

While oils were N.C. Wyeth's media, Andrew Wyeth's "choices of media-tempera, drybrush and watercolor-bespeak avoidance of his father's most occupied territory while claiming his own."

Calling Jamie Wyeth, "the masked master of sensuous surfaces," Stoner wrote, he "has one-upped the rich and palpable oil surfaces of his grandfather's paintings...he also has a repertoire of multiple media...predominantly oil, charcoal, pen-and-ink or watercolor illustrations and mixed-media on toned boards."

Stoner first became intrigued by the Wyeths at a 1980 Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts exhibit, which led to several interviews with Jamie Wyeth in 1982. Recently, she has interviewed both Andrew and Jamie Wyeth several more times and has treated many of their artworks.

"Conservation applies to new works of art as well as old, and carrying out an artist's original intentions is paramount. Sometimes, amateur conservators have restored some of the paintings with unhappy results," Stoner pointed out.

Currently Stoner and art conservation students are involved in restoring N.C. Wyeth's mural, Apotheosis of the Family, at the Wilmington Savings Fund Society in downtown Wilmington.

The proposal for A Closer Look, first submitted to Betsy Wyeth, Andrew's wife and curator of Wondrous Strange, received approval and funding from the Wyeth Endowment for American Art. In conjunction with the book, Stoner is giving an August lecture on the artists at the Farnsworth Art Museum.

-Sue Swyers Moncure