In a new exhibit entitled “Simply Sanderson” at the Christian C. Sanderson Museum, the focus is on Chris Sanderson himself, not his collection.
Recognizing the 50th year of Sanderson’s death, the exhibit explores the life of a man who was decidedly a pack rack with pride and sheds light on Sanderson’s life as a teacher, musician, historian, lecturer and friend of the Wyeth family.
At the opening on Wednesday evening, May 18, Museum Curator Chuck Ullmann said, “It was a struggle to decide which photographs and pictures of Sanderson, among the 3 to 4,000 we own, to include in the exhibit. In the end, we chose ones that have never been published before. Many of them have never even been exhibited before.”
Four or five pictures are on display in each of the themed-rooms of the museum that correspond with the items on display in cases and on the wall.
According to Krista Bolmer, marketing director for the Sanderson Museum, Sanderson’s collections are unique because they are three-dimensional. “We can hear his voice in every object label he wrote, we have the objects themselves, and we have the building where the objects were cherished,” she explained.
A captivated audience listened as Victoria Browning Wyeth spoke about the Wyeth family’s relationship with Chris Sanderson. Wyeth, the only granddaughter of iconic artist Andrew Wyeth and niece of contemporary artist Jamie Wyeth, shared family stories, personal memories and unique insights into Wyeth family art gained through years of conversations with her grandfather and uncle about their work.
Wyeth juggled the challenge of addressing a sellout crowd seated in two rooms with aplomb saying, “I’ve spoken in prisons and mental institutions . . . this is nothing.” She stood in the doorway of the museum’s two front rooms and effortlessly turned to the left and right as she spoke.
The energetic and witty Wyeth easily interacted with her audience. At one point, she started coughing, excused herself, and said dust in the room was probably the cause. As she sipped some water, someone quipped, “But it is historic dust.”
Wyeth spoke of Andrew Wyeth’s portrait of Sanderson and said it would have been much different if it had been painted a year later. Andrew Wyeth’s father was killed in a freak train and car accident in 1945. “After that traumatic event in his life, my grandfather’s painting style started to change,” she said.
Wyeth also spoke about the painting “Christmas Morning,” a work that depicts the death of Chris Sanderson’s mother. The painting speaks to the closeness of Sanderson and Wyeth, given that Sanderson would invite Andrew Wyeth into his home at such a private moment. The painting depicts Mrs. Sanderson on her deathbed, looking out the window and imagining she sees her former home and her beloved son Chris. When Andrew’s wife Betsy first saw “Christmas Morning,” she advised her husband to remove Chris.
In recounting her grandfather’s impish nature, Victoria Wyeth shared that her grandfather did as his wife asked, but told people with a wink, “Don’t worry; he’ll be back.” Wyeth knew that, in a process called “pentimento,” the image he had painted over would eventually reappear, which it has done.
The evening brought out both Sanderson and Wyeth supporters. Sally Denk Hoey, the fourth president of the Sanderson Museum, brought a photograph of past presidents, including the first president, Andrew Wyeth. Arthur “Casey” Cleveland III traveled from Palm Beach, Fla., and shared fascinating stories of growing up with the Wyeths in Chadds Ford during the reception that followed Victoria Wyeth’s lecture.
“Simply Sanderson” continues through Nov. 19. The museum is located at 1755 Creek Road in Chadds Ford. From March through November, it is open Thursday through Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free to members, $8 for adult non-members, $5 for children ages 6-12, and free for children age 5 and under accompanied by an adult.