August 4, 2013

Art Review: Paintings from Brandywine prove N.C. Wyeth's artistry


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N.C. Wyeth paintings at the Farnsworth Art Museum include “One last tremendous cut which would certainly have split him to the chin.”

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N.C. Wyeth paintings at the Farnsworth Art Museum include “The Hunter.”

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WHERE: Farnsworth Art Museum, 16 Museum St., Rockland

WHEN: Through Dec. 29

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; until 8 p.m. Wednesdays

MUSEUM ADMISSION: $12; $10 for students and seniors; free for ages 16 and under

INFO: 596-6457;

Watching the king from "A Boy's King Arthur" inflicting wrathful vengeance on a wayward knight, we are reminded that children weren't hidden from violence 100 years ago -- the battle takes place on a gruesome hill of armored bodies.

Yet the portrayal of violence was different in the era before television. It was psychological. In books, it's personal drama, unlike the flossy theatricality we associate with the "action" genre. Mediated by psychology, violence is a moral issue rather than a question of style.

We see Wyeth's psychological virtuosity in a powerful World War I propaganda image of Belleau Wood for a 1918 cover of Redbook magazine.

The aggressive American troops sweep in from the right while the panic-stricken Germans hesitate. One marine skewers his foe while the fearless moral dedication of the closest American is legible in his strong-chinned countenance. It's not a simple cartoon; it's complex and compelling.

Because we have forgotten the ways of rhetoric (also taught by Chamberlain), some of Wyeth's body language is illegible to us. But, unsuspecting, we can be caught unawares.

Because of the narrative depth of the work, it's easy to lose track of time in "Every Picture." But there are other fascinating shows at the Farnsworth, most notably an exhibition of the work of Jonathan Fisher, a multi-talented Blue Hill minister and artist whose study and prints of biblical animals are fascinating.

Also, while we think of Van Gogh's "Irises" as the historic big-ticket item from Maine, "Her Room" by Andrew Wyeth (son of N.C.) caused the world to notice the Farnsworth (which bought it) by selling for more than any painting ever had by a living artist in America. The creepily histrionic "Her Room" is on view with an impressive cadre of studies for it.

And I could go on -- there are four other good shows on view at the museum -- but for a lack of space.

Daniel Kany is a freelance writer who lives in Cumberland.


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N.C. Wyeth paintings at the Farnsworth Art Museum include “David Balfour.”


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