Wyeth on Wyeth at Brandywine Baptist

Victoria Wyeth speaking at Brandywine Baptist Church Sunday. The image shown is detail of a piece Andrew Wyeth did following the death of long-time friend Hannah Sanderson.

For Victoria Wyeth, talking on the works of her grandfather, Andrew Wyeth, is as natural as breathing. What's not as easy, is talking about the work of her great-grandfather, N.C. Wyeth.

The 38-year-old spokesperson on the art family’s history said as much during her talk at the Brandywine Baptist Church Sunday. The church is celebrating its 325th anniversary and has the N.C. Wyeth painting "In Naaman's House" on display in the sanctuary. The painting was a gift to the church from N.C. Wyeth's widow, Carolyn, in 1964.

Victoria Wyeth explains some of the differences between her grandfather and great-grandfather. N.C. Wyeth, she, worked on large canvases in a studio, as shown, while Andy Wyeth loved painting on site.

Victoria Wyeth never knew her great-grandfather because he was killed more than 30 years before her birth when his car was struck by a train near the Kuerner Farm on Ring Road in Chadds Ford. However, she said Andrew never stopped thinking of or talking about his father, that N.C. was a strong influence on him even though their respective styles were so different.

"Andy said, ‘I paint my life.' And here's the big difference between him and N.C. Wyeth. N.C. Wyeth is painting the past. He's painting biblical scenes; he's painting illustrations for "Treasure Island," she explained. "I love my great-grandfather's work, but I understand my grandfather's work the most because he's not only painting his life, he's painting my life."

Another difference is that N.C. Wyeth worked on large canvases even though his illustrations would be printed small. And he worked in a studio.

Andrew, on the other hand, loved painting outside, plein air, so he could not only see the scene but also hear and smell the surroundings.

"He would say ‘art has no rules.' I'd ask what does that mean. He'd say ‘You're outside painting and it starts to rain, then you make it rain in your painting. He'd say ‘if we were in art school we'd all be sitting around painting the same thing. You need to be outside in the blistering heat or the freezing cold, really just experiencing the elements. That's how one paints,'" she said.

Andy Wyeth's first painting, done at age 6.

N.C.'s influence on Andrew goes back to when Andrew was 6 years old and said he had to be a painter and wanted to quit school. "Only in a family where your father is N.C. Wyeth does he say, ‘OK,'" Victoria Wyeth said.

Seven years later, at age 13, Andy started painting N.C. Victoria said Andy once showed her a painting he did of his father in 1936 and told her what N.C. was feeling that day. She asked him how he could remember that. His response, she said, was "'How could I forget?'"

She said the most important thing to understand about her grandfather's work is his thought process. People would say his work is too monochromatic because of all the brown in his landscape work in the area, but he would always respond by saying that's Chadds Ford and that's what he loved:

As the notes indicate, Andrew Wyeth would get in tune with the scenes he painted.

"There is the wonderful color of brown, but there are hundreds of shades of brown [to be found],'" she said quoting him. "And the thing that he loved so much about Chadds Ford is that that the shadows are so beautiful here, especially in the winter."

Her memories of her grandfather — whom she usually refers to as Andy —are of him working, but also include his personality. "He had the most wonderful sense of humor and was one of the most giving people I've ever met," she said.

She told a story of the time he came across someone whose car had broken down on the road. He took the person to Leader Sunoco and paid for a new engine for the man's car.

N.C. Wyeth's "In Naaman's House," donated to Brandywine Baptist Church in 1964.

After Victoria Wyeth's presentation, Bill Hyde told the biblical story of Naaman. Naaman had been a commander in the Syrian Army and had won many battles, but who later contracted leprosy. Naaman was told of a prophet in Israel who could help. Naaman did as the prophet Elisha told him, to bathe in the Jordan River seven times. Naaman did so, accepted the God of Israel, and was healed.

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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